THE Welsh Government’s rural affairs minister Lesley Griffiths has said Brexit is to blame for uncertainties on farming policy. 

The industry will gather for its annual showpiece, the Royal Welsh Show, at Llanelwedd near Builth Wells tomorrow for the first time since 2019 but questions over the future of Welsh farming still remain. 

Though Wales, and Britain as a whole, voted to leave the European Union six years ago a new policy to replace the trading block’s Common Agricultural Policy that farmers and the UK have been bound by has still yet to be put in place. 

Griffiths told BBC Radio Wales that Brexit has created uncertainty for the industry as the governments in the UK seek to put in place new policies to support farming. 

She said Welsh farmers want to “continue to produce sustainable food” and that the Welsh Government’s proposed policy is intended to support them to do so. 

But she acknowledged the process has been drawn out, in part due to a lost year from the pandemic. 

The Welsh Government published its latest outline proposals this week and on BBC Radio Wales’ Sunday Supplement programme today Griffiths acknowledged farmers have been left with little certainty for their futures. 

Presenter Paul Martin said the Welsh Government’s timetable would mean a new policy wouldn’t be in place until nearly 10 years on from the 2016 Brexit result. 

“It’s certainly been a very difficult and uncertain time for our farmers but I’m afraid that is a consequence of leaving the European Union,” the minister said. 

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The Royal Welsh, Europe’s largest agricultural show, is considered a showcase for rural Wales and organisers the Royal Welsh Agricultural Society describe it as a forum for the industry and the wider rural community. 

It can attract up to 50,000 visitors to the showground every day from Monday to its closing day on Thursday and around 250,000 throughout the week and is crucial to the hospitality trade in Builth and the mid Powys area. It's return, following the Covid pandemic, will be widely welcomed by local businesses and the hundres of thousands who attend every year.

Throughout the week various organisations, including Wales’ two farming unions, public bodies, trade groups and political parties and governments will host events and discussions. 

Former prime ministers David Cameron and Theresa May made a number of visits to the show which is also a permanent fixture in the Welsh first minister’s diary. 

The National Wales: Then prime minister David Cameron (left) touring the sheep pens at the 2015 Royal Welsh Show. Picture: PAThen prime minister David Cameron (left) touring the sheep pens at the 2015 Royal Welsh Show. Picture: PA

Wales’ rural affairs minister will be expecting plenty of formal, and informal, approaches on farm support policies while at the showground. 

Brexit – which was seen as having been widely backed by the farming community – has presented the opportunity for Wales to design its own bespoke agricultural policy and farm support payments, having previously been bound by the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy. 

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The Welsh Government has, similar to England, proposed payments for farmers to enhance the environment. In Wales the Labour government has proposed farmers will need to have 10 per cent of their farms covered by trees. 

The government says it has proposed the policy to help reach a target of increasing woodland by 43,000 hectares by 2030 but farming unions fear farms in upland or coastal areas may not be able to achieve the 10 per cent target. 

Asked if the 10 per cent figure is “negotiable”, Griffiths said details are still being worked out as part of ‘co-design’ with the industry and its “really important the scheme works for everybody”. She said more than 2,000 farmers had taken part in the most recent stage of the consultation and she wants more to come forward in the next stage. 

The National Wales: First minister Mark Drakeford, Leslie Griffiths and then education minister Kirsty Williams with King Goodwill Zwelithini kaBhekuzulu and Queen Pumi, head of the Zulu nation at the opening of the 2019 Royal Welsh Show.First minister Mark Drakeford, Leslie Griffiths and then education minister Kirsty Williams with King Goodwill Zwelithini kaBhekuzulu and Queen Pumi, head of the Zulu nation at the opening of the 2019 Royal Welsh Show.

She said: “We need to understand and farmers need to understand how they can reach that 10 per cent. 

“One of the question I’ve been asked already is do orchards count as part of our existing woodland? The short answer is yes. Will hedgerows count? We need to look at whether they can be part of the 10 per cent as well, this is part of the co-design. This is only the next stage and we will go out to final consultation next year.” 

Griffiths said it is intened to introduce an agricultural bill, outlining the policy, to the Senedd in the autumn.

On the contentious issue of farmland being bought by large companies for carbon off setting projects - which unions fear will reduce the availability of viable farms and have a knock-on effect on rural communities by reducing working farms – the minister suggested she was unconvinced by the scale of the problem. 

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She said: “I’ve heard a lot of anicdotal evidence that really good farmland was being bought up by big companies for carbon off setting, now I haven’t seen that as widespread. 

“I can’t tell farmers who to sell their farmland to, they wouldn’t welcome that, and I certainly wouldn’t want to do that. It is about getting the balance right. 

“For me this scheme needs to keep farmers on the land. They want to produce, and continue to produce, sustainable food and that’s what, I believe, this scheme will do. It will help them with their response to the climate emergency and farmers always tell me, and this is rightly so, they are part of the solution. 

“We want to keep farmers on the land and for the next generation of farmers as well. It is really important this scheme works for every farmer, on every farm in every part of Wales.” 

On the heatwave Griffiths said the “extreme weather is part of the climate emergency”. 

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