Last week, Welsh Government made several important announcements on the future of farming in Wales, which has provided some much-needed clarity.
Welsh government announced that that it is committing £66m to allow the extension of Glastir Advanced, Commons and Organic contracts until December 2023. A further £7m will also extend Farming Connect’s advice service through to March 2023. This commitment has been a key ask from CLA Cymru for the past year as Glastir is a key income stream for many of our members and if not extended, there was a risk the significant environmental outcomes that have been made since it started in 2012 would have been lost.
Alongside the announcements on Glastir and Farming Connect, Welsh Government published its eagerly-awaited response to the Agriculture (Wales) Bill white paper that we responded to earlier this year. It reiterated that the bill will be laid before the Senedd in Spring 2022 and will include the following provisions:
Sustainable Land Management (SLM) & future support (including transition)
SLM will be established as the overarching principle for future agricultural policy, including future support. The Agriculture Bill will also provide the powers to establish, administer and close schemes, which enable and support the delivery of SLM. This will include the proposed Sustainable Farming Scheme (SFS). It will also provide the framework to support the transition from the Basic Payment Scheme (and other rural development schemes) to future schemes.
Welsh Government intends to legislate through the Agriculture Bill on those provisions which were taken for Welsh ministers through the Agriculture Act 2020 (England) and will expire on 31 December 2024.
Welsh Government intend to take regulation-making powers through the Agriculture Bill to enable tenants of Agricultural Holding Act 1986 tenancies to refer to dispute resolution requests for landlord’s consent to activities that are restricted under the terms of their tenancy agreement or requests for a variation of terms, where that request relates to the tenant accessing Welsh Government financial assistance schemes.
Welsh Government will include powers within the Agriculture Bill to ensure that Welsh ministers retain the power to review and amend Environmental Impact Assessment thresholds. They will include provisions in the bill amending the Forestry Act 1967 to allow Welsh ministers to add conditions to felling licenses and to allow felling licenses to be amended, suspended or revoked after licenses have been granted.
Welsh Government will bring forward legislation to amend the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 to ban the use of snares and glue traps.
National Minimum Standards and Civil Sanctions
Welsh Government intends to reduce the regulatory burden on farmers. It wants to make it easier for farmers to understand what they must do to comply with the law through the introduction of National Minimum Standards. They want to ensure enforcement is proportionate to the severity of the offence and avoid the criminalisation of farmers for less serious offences.
The announcements also covered a timetable for transition to the new Sustainable Farming Scheme before a full roll out in January 2025.
The Welsh Government's response to the white paper can be found here.