NFU Cymru calls for a revamp of funding policy at Sustainable Farming Conference
28th September 2023
At today’s Sustainable Farming Conference, NFU Cymru has urged the government to provide long-term funding that accurately reflects the modern-day cost to Welsh farmers of producing food, enhancing the environment and combatting the climate challenge.
Opening the third NFU Cymru/Wynnstay Sustainable Farming Conference, which took place at Bodwi farm on the Llŷn Peninsula today (28th September), NFU Cymru President Aled Jones highlighted the deficit between farming support and rising inflation over the past decade, and the destabilising impact this has had on farm business viability.
While Mr Jones commended the Welsh Government for maintaining BPS rates at historic levels in 2023, he stressed the importance of maintaining the current level of farming support for the following year, given the ongoing challenges facing Welsh farmers.
With agri-inflation having risen 40% since 2020, he also warned that future payments that do not take into account the industry’s escalating costs will challenge farming’s ability to meet its food, environment and climate ambitions.
Speaking at the conference, Mr Jones said: “Farmers can only deliver for the environment from a position of farm business viability.
“The entire rural affairs budget, including agriculture, currently makes up just 2% of Welsh Government spending. In 2022, farming delivered a gross output of £2.1 billion pounds. We can say confidently, therefore, there is a nine-to-one return for every BPS pound invested in Welsh farming. By any measure, farming delivers excellent value for money.”
In the context of rising inflation, which suggests the BPS budget would need to increase by £79 million to maintain the level of funding farming was allocated ten years ago, Mr Jones said ‘not a penny less’ funding for farmers is no longer a sustainable position.
“Our current and future governments in both Cardiff Bay and Westminster need to deliver on a long-term funding arrangement that properly reflects the funding required to deliver on our food, environment and climate ambitions,” he stressed.
SFS tree cover target yet to be addressed
While NFU Cymru supports the overarching structure of the proposed Sustainable Farming Scheme (SFS), it emphasized the scheme must work for all farming sectors, locations, land tenures and types.
Moreover, Mr Jones said the union is extremely concerned the government’s controversial 10% tree cover and 10% habitat targets have not yet been addressed.
“We remain in no doubt that Welsh Government’s 10% tree cover targets present a very real barrier to scheme participation for many farmers in Wales.”
“We can integrate more trees into farming systems – but we will not take our productive land out of food production for trees. We need a solution that recognises this and we stand ready to work with government on this issue so that we have a scheme that works for all farmers in Wales.”
Concluding his opening speech, Mr Jones added: “As we will see and hear at today’s conference – there is much to celebrate in terms of farming’s commitment to the environment.
“Welsh Government must deliver the budgetary and policy levers needed to ensure that we meet this ambition and we are committed to continuing these discussions to make our goal a reality.”