NSA excluded from Welsh government farming roundtable

The Welsh government has come under fire for failing to invite the sheep sector to its new farming roundtable.

The National Sheep Association (NSA) has made clear its frustration at the Welsh government after multiple requests to join the roundtable, which is set to discuss future Sustainable Farming Scheme offerings in Wales, were ignored.

The charity has been involved in policy and future farming scheme development across the UK, and has said that this neglect could put the sheep farming sector in Wales into jeopardy.

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NSA chief executive Phil Stocker branded the decision “extremely disappointing”.

He said: “The Welsh government has chosen to exclude NSA, the only organisation that solely represents the largest agricultural sector (sheep farming) in Wales, from its roundtable discussions.

“Collectively the sheep and beef sector in Wales supports more than 223,000 jobs and Wales’s biggest employer – the food and drink supply chain – that is worth over £6bn to the Welsh economy,” he said.

Mr Stocker said the refusal by the Welsh government to engage with the NSA showed a “lack of appetite” to future-proof the predominant livestock sector in Welsh agriculture.

 “I am highly concerned that the level of our engagement since the new farming minister came into post has been zero, and I am not at all confident that the Welsh government is making use of farmers’ experiences from scheme development in other nations.

“There is still no facilitation for tenants, new entrants, share and contract farming agreements, commons, cross-border farms or graziers,” he said.

To date, the NSA says it has made several requests to officials to join the roundtable – all of which have been met with no response.

It would, however, still welcome the opportunity for inclusion.

“Given the importance of sheep farming in Wales I will still say it’s not too late and we would welcome engagement from the Welsh government, which sadly so far has been lacking,” Mr Stocker said.

A Welsh government spokesman told Farmers Weekly: “Through the SFS roundtable and official groups, we intend to work at pace to identify areas of agreement and place the emphasis on matters where more work is required.

“We have had to limit the size of the roundtable to ensure it is manageable, while representing all interests.”