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Government must support Welsh agriculture after Brexit

09 July 2018

The Welsh Affairs Committee publishes its latest report highlighting key priorities for UK-EU negotiations and calling on the Government to initiate policies to support Welsh agriculture.

Priorities for UK-EU negotiations

The EU is the main market for the export of Welsh agricultural products, providing the market for over 80% of food and animal exports. The report emphasises that "barrier-free access to EU markets is therefore essential to the future of Welsh agriculture." The report calls upon the Government to "recognise that the overwhelming view of the representatives we heard from felt that they would be best served by retaining membership of the Single Market and Customs Union, in order to ensure current access to EU markets with no new barriers—be they in the form of tariffs, customs controls, or other checks."

The report also highlights the need to "ensure that future arrangements for geographic indicators lead to no reduction in protection for agricultural producers", specifically continued recognition of Welsh products – such as Welsh lamb and beef, Anglesey sea salt and Welsh laverbread – by the EU's system of Protected Geographic Indicators.

Common frameworks and trade negotiations

Ahead of the anticipated introduction of the Agriculture Bill to the UK Parliament, the Committee "urge the UK Government to work with the Welsh Government to agree on the areas of agricultural policy to which common frameworks will need to apply, and to establish how these will work, and the mechanisms for their governance" – including Committee scrutiny. Following the Agriculture minister's recognition that replacing the Common Agricultural Policy would be a matter for the Welsh Government, an Agriculture Bill will also need to be introduced in the National Assembly for Wales.

The report recommends the agreement of "arrangements for seeking the input and consent of the devolved institutions in Wales on trade deals" that the UK Government negotiates post-Brexit, given their implications for areas of devolved policy. It also warns that "when securing new trade agreements the Government must not tolerate lower environmental and welfare standards for food imported into the UK, than food which is produced within the UK."

Agricultural support post-Brexit

The report finds that following the UK’s departure from the Common Agricultural Policy, "in the short-term ongoing financial support will be essential to sustain the agricultural sector in Wales", to provide similar levels of certainty over financial support to Welsh farmers as currently provided by CAP.

The Committee argues that the move to a future subsidies system "will need to be done in a way which ensures that farmers do not face a cliff-edge with regard to financial support", and highlights the need for Wales to receive its fair share of future funds for agricultural support. The report therefore calls on the UK Government to "agree with the devolved administrations a mechanism for future allocations of funding for agricultural support", prior to the Agriculture Bill reaching Committee Stage in the House of Commons. It also welcomes the Welsh Government's commitment to ring-fence any funding provided by the UK Government.

Productivity, promotion and procurement

The report recommends that the UK Government work with the Welsh Government to develop a joint strategy "setting out how it will support and promote Welsh agriculture - and particularly the red meat sector - once the UK has left the EU."

In terms of the red meat sector, the report urges the Government to overhaul of "the complex framework underpinning the red meat levy so that the value accrued from the slaughter of animals reared in Wales is reinvested in the promotion of Welsh produce." It also highlights potential "opportunities for increasing the flexibility of public bodies to procure local produce", and calls for guidance from the UK and devolved administrations in this area.

Chair's comments

Launching the report, Committee Chair David T. C. Davies MP said:

"The United Kingdom's decision to leave the European Union will have significant implications for the agricultural industry and wider food sector in Wales, and there are a wide range of views within the Welsh agricultural community about Brexit. Where there is a clear consensus is in seeking to minimise any adverse impacts of Brexit, and maximise opportunities for the sector.

Our report reflects the range of views that we have heard during our inquiry, identifies key priorities for the sector, and where possible seeks to establish a common view on the best way forward. Given the importance of agriculture to the Welsh economy, it is vital that all interested parties work together to provide Welsh farmers and their businesses with the certainty they need to plan for the long-term."

Further information

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