Wales’ new post-Brexit farm payments system is to get out of the starting blocks this autumn when a new Agriculture Bill is set to be introduced.
The bill, announced on Tuesday (6 July), will create a new system of farm payments that “rewards farmers for their response to the climate and nature emergencies” and supports them to produce food sustainably.
It is one of five new bills the Labour government plans to introduce in its first year since retaining power in the May elections, with the new farm payments system likely to apply from 2024.
The working model for the new system in Wales remains the Sustainable Farming Scheme, which was published last December, but what that will deliver on the ground is still to be decided.
Nick Fenwick, head of policy at the Farmers’ Union of Wales, said the union had written to the Welsh government after the May elections urging it to have “a rethink and a rebuild”.
“We all agree we want environmental outcomes, but there is a glaring hole, in that traditional social values such as protecting families, jobs and communities are afterthoughts rather than key strategic objectives,” he said.
In England, the transition to the Environmental Land Management scheme is forging ahead, but in Wales the process had slowed down.
“One of the key purposes of a domestic policy should be to try to make up for negative external influences, such as the Australia trade deal,” said Dr Fenwick.
“Having a slower transition puts us in a position where we can at least consider the effects and design a policy that helps negate these – but you have to have those social outcomes as a strategic objective to do this effectively.
“We really hope that our slower timetable will allow the new Welsh government to see we have the opportunity to be genuinely innovative and do something different rather than just copying Defra’s public goods mantra.”
The Welsh government has pledged that the Basic Payment Scheme will be maintained at current levels for 2022 if its funding for agriculture from the UK government remains the same.