Experts share their insights in our 2022 challenges and opportunities webinar

Uncertainty and contradiction: these two words emerged most often as themes in the CLA Cymru’s webinar looking at challenges and opportunities for the year ahead.

A link to watch the webinar will be made available soon.

This online event brought expertise in agriculture, planning and development, carbon management, planning, diversification and economic policy. This came from CLA Cymru Chair and estate owner, Iain Hill Trevor, Rhys Davies from Cadnant Planning, Morien Jones (upland farmer with a strong environmental focus), Lloyd James from land agents Owen & Owen, Mared Williams, Low carbon Manager from The Rhug Estate, and CLA senior policy advisors, Dr Charles Trotman and Fraser McAuley.

“This really is a critical year for the rural community,” says Nigel Hollett, chairing the panel. “The Welsh Government’s Programme for Government presaged a sea-change in strategic approach, and we’ve already seen change on the ground in Nitrogen Vulnerable Zones (NVZs), a refreshed bovine TB strategy and important proposals affecting planning, residential property and tourism.”

“But from the floor we’re grateful to have been reminded that we have local elections in May. Local authorities are formulating their development plans and their local net zero plan. There’s a job to do in influencing local council candidates – notably in rural areas.”

The panel was eager to see clarity about how Welsh farming will be supported, how productivity and environmental gain will be encouraged. Issues here are all more intense by high and rising input costs: the price of energy, labour costs and supply chain pressures caused by these and high transport and raw material prices.

The event debated the apparent contradictions in how Welsh Government policy appears at ground level. The administration looks to nurture economic growth conspicuously in the rural context in tourism.

“Opportunity abounds for responsible housing development and to offer residential lettings in rural areas, however, the government is committed to restrict rural development via planning controls to meet contradictory objectives in increasing social housing stock and dealing with fluvial phosphate levels: both urgent problems in search of a solution.”

The years offers some exciting opportunities. We look forward to the Agriculture Bill: as the Sustainable Farming Scheme is revealed, farmers and land managers will be eager to “look under the bonnet” and “see how it drives.” Simultaneously we must look to new markets: new products and new sources of demand – and the fledgling market for carbon. Here land managers need to hold-firm: there are clearly opportunities for landowners who have made baseline assessments and understand how to manage the element both physically in their soil, and as an income formula. Again, we need to see how the management machine will work.

We welcome Welsh solutions for Welsh problems. However, the panel showed consensus in that the respective governments in Cardiff and Westminster must match budgets for the scale of UK-wide ambition, and create dovetailing schemes to ensure consistency at ground level.

Nigel Hollett concludes, “This was a lively, fascinating and enjoyable deep-dive into the issues of the day. We are truly grateful to our panel and all those who took part.”