Supporting Farmers and rural life

Updated May 2024

Support for our Farming industry.   

Farmers are being asked to do more; for less, with reduced support from the Welsh Government despite their growing environmental demands. 

In February, we witnessed the largest protest ever seen, which took place outside the Senedd. I was pleased to join and speak with some of those that attended.   Thousands of farmers and those who care about rural Wales demonstrated and gave a strong message to the Welsh Government that the industry is at breaking point.

The Welsh Government’s budget for the 2024-25 financial year was also passed in February, which imposed a cut of 13% to the rural affairs portfolio. The largest cut of any Welsh Government department.

I, alongside my Welsh Conservative colleagues voted against the Welsh Government’s budget. However, because other opposition parties did not join us in voting against the budget, because of their agreements with the Welsh Labour Government, the budget passed. Over recent months, I have met with and attended several meetings with farming unions, and those that care about rural Wales, including joining farmers in Newtown, as farmers hoped to meet with the two candidates that wanted to be the next First Minister. I also joined the Prime Minister as he met with farmers in Llandudno. 

My Welsh Conservatives colleagues and I have brought forward several Senedd motions and forced votes to remove the requirement for each farm to have 10% tree cover and scrap the current Sustainable Farming Scheme proposals and to re-engage with the farming sector to develop a new scheme that has the support of the farming community.

The Welsh Government has already initiated economic analysis and modelling for the scheme's potential impacts. The projections indicate a considerable reduction in Welsh livestock units by 122,200, equivalent to a 10.8% decrease in overall livestock numbers. Additionally, there is a forecasted 11% reduction in labour on Welsh farms, translating to approximately 5,500 jobs lost based on current employment levels. 

With Mark Drakeford stepping down, alongside colleagues, we have made it clear that a reset and a new approach was needed in relation to the SFS. There seems to be some movement from the new Rural Affairs Cabinet Secretary . The Basic Payment Scheme will continue to be available in 2025, with the proposed SFS transition period starting from 2026, with an announcement to follow on the BPS ceiling.

We are told this decision shows the Welsh Labour Government is listening to farmers concerns. In my view, they should have been listening from the start of this process. Neither farming families nor government can afford to have a scheme that fails to deliver on the vision for food, nature, climate, and communities. 

I am in no doubt that this delay and re-engagement with farmers by the Welsh Government is only down to the enormous pressure and display of unity by farmers, farming unions and rural communities.

The Welsh Government also needs to do so much more to tackle the devastation that bovine TB causes. I believe that a holistic approach to defeating the disease is required, working in partnership with farmers and vets to eradicate the reservoir of infection within herds, eliminate inter-herd transmission and the targeted removal of infected wildlife, who themselves suffer a painful death due to TB. 

The new rural affairs minister has set up a Technical Advisory Group (TAG) on TB, which is welcome. One change recommended by the TAG means that farmers will be able to choose to delay the removal of a cow or heifer in the last 60 days of pregnancy and animals that have given birth in the previous 7 days, subject to biosecurity conditions to protect other cattle in the herd. There is lots more work to do if we are to catch up with the progress made in the fight against TB over the border in England where the removal of infected wildlife is takes place.  

Another growing area of concern in recent years has been the increasing pressure on farming business from government regulation. The farming industry have been looking after our countryside for centuries, but the burden of further unnecessary regulation, and again a one size fits all approach, is why I and Welsh Conservatives, voted against The Water Resources (Control of Agricultural Pollution) (Wales) Regulations (NVZs). The additional burden in Wales also makes famers less competitive than farming businesses often just a few miles away over the border.

The rallying cry is clear: no farmers, no food. Now is the time to rally and protect Welsh agriculture, preserving not only our farmers' livelihoods but also the essence of our countryside. For the sake of the Royal Welsh Show, what the Welsh Government is calling ‘School holiday reform’ must also be scrapped. 

I have been pleased that the farming sector have the support of the public, many who are not directly linked to the industry. This support needs to be maintained, it is incumbent on both the farming sector and politicians like me who fully support the industry’s calls, to set out why we need to back our farmers, and what the consequence are if we don’t, not only for the industry, but for us all.