Welsh farming at a crossroads after Brexit – Plaid Cymru

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Plaid Cymru AM Simon Thomas will give his vision for agriculture this morning (11am – 12pm) during a question and answer session on the National Farmers’ Union stand at the Royal Welsh Agricultural Show in Llanelwedd.

Simon Thomas AM, Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Energy, Climate Change and Rural Affairs is expected to say:
“Welsh farming is at a crossroads if we leave the European Union.

“Agriculture will face the biggest impact of leaving the European Union according to research by the NFU, for every £1 invested in farm support in the UK, farming delivers £7.40 back to the economy. This is why we need the right regulatory framework and policies to minimise as much as possible the harm caused to the sector.

“Much depends on the trade negotiations carried out by the Westminster Government and how much voice Wales will have in the deal-making.

“The Westminster Government’s trade deals could mean we have tariffs imposed on Welsh food and drink exports and cheap imports flooding the UK market.

“Plaid Cymru’s view is that the best way for our agricultural sector is through continued participation in the Single Market and to avoid tariff barriers.

“We need a UK framework agreed by all four nations on an equal basis with as much freedom as possible for different approaches.

“Wales currently gets almost twice as our ‘Barnett’ share of UK Common Agricultural Policy funding, so in future this must be agreed separately to the Barnett formula.

“The Labour Government in Wales must also commit to using this funding to support agriculture and the rural economy. Following my questioning the Welsh Government has guaranteed continued Common Agricultural Policy support up to 2021, previously it was up to 2020.

“As we approach this crossroads for Welsh agriculture I would like to see support targeted where it is needed, such as small upland farms, rather than large landowners and big farm businesses.

“We do need to move towards paying our farmers based on outcomes rather than how much land they own. Over 80 per cent of land in Wales is farmed and farmers are therefore well-placed to improve our environment and economy.

“Farmers could be paid to deliver eco-system services like improved water quality and biodiversity; flood prevention and cutting carbon. This would cut red tape as farmers would be receive payments based on outcomes, with the freedom to innovate on how they achieve those goals.”

“Though this is an attractive development for many we do need to remember that The World Trade Organization rules will also come into play. At present these do not permit us to pay farmers simply for doing positive things, but only for the income they lose by doing them. Much complicated negotiation lies ahead which is why it is essential for Wales to have a strong and equal voice on those discussions.”

As the UK Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Michael Gove visits the Royal Welsh Agricultural Society, Simon Thomas issued a challenge to the Leave leader.

Mid and West AM Simon Thomas added:

“We’ve had 20 years decision making on agriculture from Wales and the people of Wales resoundingly endorsed that in the 2011 referendum on the powers of the Assembly. We cannot now allow Tories who do not represent Wales shape the future of Welsh farming.

“Plaid Cymru agrees with the need for UK frameworks as we leave the European Union, and wanted to work in building up those frameworks for agriculture, fisheries and for the environment, but the attitude of Tory Ministers in Whitehall makes this impossible.

“What we are seeing now is not frameworks but impositions. Instead of treating the four nations of the UK as equals, Michael Gove latest speech is a shot across the bows of the Welsh national interest and the powers of the Welsh Government.

“Michael Gove wants to be the one who will make the key decisions on environment and agriculture here in Wales, despite not representing a Welsh seat. Unelected, unaccountable and undemocratic – we would be turning the clock back to before devolution.”

“The Conservatives and Gove have talked in the past about allowing GM crops and neonicontinoids, pesticides which kill our bee populations, to be used in UK agriculture. They continue to allow dangerously high levels of air pollution. Michael Gove is soft soaping some environmentalists but the reality will be that we in Wales will lose many environmental and agricultural benefits if the Tories get their way and stop devolution with the EU Withdrawal Bill.”

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