Published On: Thu, Jun 4th, 2015

Strategic framework cites need for ‘green growth’ if economic potential of Welsh agriculture is to be unleashed

A brighter future for Welsh farming? This superb photo of a double rainbow was captured by Welsh Black cattle breeder Ioan Roberts on his Anglesey farm at Tryfil Isaf, Llanerchymedd
Black cattle breeder Ioan Roberts on his Anglesey farm at Tryfil Isaf, Llanerchymedd

A new strategic framework was launched today which aims to unlock the untapped potential of Welsh agriculture.

The Welsh Government stressed the document, which will undergo a 12-week consultation, is not a detailed strategy but an over-arching vision for Welsh farming.

It signposts the need for professional and profitable farms that can achieve greater efficiencies but not at the expense of the environment.

A key aspiration is to improve the product mix offered by farmers whilst generating more value for their outputs.

These “products” could include services such as carbon storage, renewable energy, forestry and water management.

Launching the framework at today’s Welsh Farming Conference 2015, Builth Wells, deputy farming minister Rebecca Evans said profitability was fundamental to the sector’s long-term success.

“Our vision is of a prosperous, sustainable industry,” she said.

“We want an industry that is forward looking, uses best practice and works to safeguard and enhance soil, water and the natural environment – the bedrock of farm production.

“The emphasis will be on ‘green growth’, supporting only those actions that are good for our rural economy, good for communities, good for the environment.”

The framework has six main goals.

To improve farming’s sustainability – economically, socially and environmentally.

To produce a diverse range of “products” with increased value that meet current and future market demands.

To be environmentally efficient in terms of using resources, lowering carbon footprints and managing soils and water.

To produce goods sustainability so that production is not displaced overseas.

To focus on scientific research and implement the latest knowledge.

To generate wealth and skilled employment across Wales.

FUW president Emyr Jones said the framework contained aspirations for agriculture which few could disagree with, especially given the difficulties currently facing the industry.

“Put simply, farming once again finds itself in depression, and the anger out there amongst the industry is evident,” he said.

At least the new document was vastly different in concept to previous strategies launched by the Welsh Government, said Mr Jones.

“This is not some 200-page strategy document which will join the others on the shelf,” he said.

Farmers manage 80% of the land surface in Wales, contributing £244m-a-year to the Welsh economy.

Crucially, however, the industry also underpins the £5.7bn food and drink sector, and creates the conditions needed for £2bn tourism to thrive.

It is also the glue that binds the rural economy, with new research showing that Welsh family farms procure more than 80% of their goods and services from within a 25-mile radius of their holdings.

Despite this, Wales’ farming industry still has “unrealised potential”, according to the strategic framework.

Both farm unions believe that, for this potential to be unleashed, the new Rural Development Programme (RDP) for Wales will need to play a vital pump-priming role.

Outlining how it believes the £900m RDP should be used, NFU Cymru president Stephen James told the conference that expert advice should be integrated with on-farm investment to encourage widespread uptake.

“Crucial to the success of this framework will be government and industry bringing these core projects to reality,” he said.

Emyr Jones said the RDP could be a lifeline for those who stand to lose out under the newBasic Payment Scheme.

“We cannot control oil prices or exchange rates, and only God can change the weather which can make or break a profitable year,” he said.

“But the RDP is one key toolbox we do have at our disposal.”

To implement the strategic framework, a new a farming-led Partnership Group will be established.

This umbrella group will work with the Welsh Government to strengthen co-operation, champion innovation and create action groups.

The stategic framework consultation document is on the Welsh Government website. Deadline for responses is August 27.