Shortly before the traditional political summer break, the Welsh Government launched a significant consultation document regarding the future of agriculture and land use in Wales - Brexit and Our Land.
The current position is of course that the Welsh Government, just like the other UK administrations, adheres to the Common Agriculture Policy. There are some differences in the way in which the policy is applied but the framework is the same. The consultation outlines the Welsh Government’s plans for when Wales will oversee its own agriculture policy following Brexit. There is of course much uncertainty regarding the entire process but provided Brexit goes ahead, the Government hopes that the transition to any new policy will take place by 2025.
There is a complete shift away from the pillared approach of the CAP which currently provides direct support under pillar 1 (Basic Payment Scheme) and rural development schemes (Glastir etc) under pillar 2. They are set to disappear entirely with no direct payment replacement. This is a significant reform in farming support policy and, with a significant proportion of farm businesses reliant upon the BPS to ensure a positive return, adapting to the change will no doubt prove challenging for the industry.
The consultation document proposes two main components which will form the basis of the new policy. The first is the Economic Resilience Scheme – designed to provide specific and targeted support particularly in relation to the production of food and timber. It will include investment in physical and human capital and will try to improve productivity and performance of businesses. The second is the Public Goods Scheme, which will provide payments for specific outcomes which arise from active land management.
Despite the consultation providing a great deal of detail regarding the rationale for change, there is less regarding the way in which the schemes will work. For example, how the public goods will be defined, measured, delivered and appropriately rewarded are all issues left to be determined. There is also no mention of a potential safety net for farmers which, for all its faults, the BPS delivers. Given the conditions experienced by farmers across the country this year, it brings this issue into sharp focus. However, there is mention in the document about the need to ensure that the various ownership, landlord and tenancy models do not constrain the ability to deliver the required outcomes. In particular, the challenges of ensuring that tenants benefit from the work they carry out are recognised. This has clearly been a significant issue in the time of the SFP and, to some extent, BPS.
Despite the likelihood of disruption during the radical reform of policy, there are likely to be opportunities, particularly for tenants. The rental market may well be affected and, with the departure from direct payments, genuine farm businesses look set to be the beneficiaries. As mentioned, the consultation is lengthy but this is your opportunity to influence future farm and land use policy in Wales.The consultation remains open until 30thOctober 2018 and you can find the consultation document by clicking this link and you can also respond online by following this link.