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Written Statement - The resilience of agriculture in Wales   

Alun Davies AM, Minister for Natural Resources and Food

I announced last month, in light of the recent episode of adverse weather, that I would commission an independent review of the resilience of our agricultural industry.  My intention is that this review should address the industry’s ability to prepare for, and respond to, contingent events, as well as to assess the viability of current farm business models for the longer term.  I have asked Kevin Roberts, formerly Director General of the NFU and, earlier, Director General of the Meat and Livestock Commission, to carry out this work.

The formal terms of reference I have given to Kevin Roberts are:

To assess the resilience of the agricultural industry in Wales, with particular reference to livestock and upland farming, and advise on related matters, including:

  • the impact of the severe snowfall in parts of Mid and North Wales in late March 2013, and the roles played by the industry, ancillary sectors, Welsh Government, local authorities, farming charities and others in responding to that developing situation;
  • how the farming and associated ancillary sectors in Wales manage risk, and their ability (collectively and at individual business level) to withstand contingent events more generally;
  • whether, in view of current and anticipated challenges and opportunities, and in light of recent experience with the severe weather, current farm business models across the principal farm types in Wales are robust and viable for the longer term; and
  • the role of government and other agencies (across the public, private and voluntary sectors) in helping develop resilience within the industry;

and to make recommendations for the future.

Kevin is already making good progress with this work and has met with a number of people throughout the industry to gain a better understanding of the issues they faced during the recent weather.  He will be presenting interim findings to me before the summer recess, and I expect to discuss those with the Environment and Sustainability Committee at the Royal Welsh Show in July.  On current plans, Kevin will present his final report to me by the end of November this year.

I see this report as being critical for both the industry and for the Welsh Government in terms of helping strengthen agriculture in Wales for the longer term.  The review will inform the development of my thinking on reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) in Wales over the next seven years, and, in particular the shape of the next Rural Development Plan.  I also expect that Kevin’s findings will also feed into our collective work on responsibility and cost-sharing, and the broader ‘Working Smarter’ agenda.

The review of resilience is designed to complement other relevant work that I have recently commissioned including the analysis to be undertaken by Hybu Cig Cymru of the impacts of the recent weather on the red meat supply chain in Wales;, a project to develop the Welsh Government’s Young/New Entrant Support Scheme further, and an internal review within Welsh Government to be led by officials from our civil contingencies team.  Given that contingent events rarely respect administrative borders, I have also asked Kevin to consider the Welsh dimension to any matters that might best be addressed at a GB, UK or EU level. I raised this issue of cross-border working during contingencies with my UK counterparts at a ministerial meeting in London last Monday, 20th May.

I would encourage the industry and other stakeholders to engage in this review process to ensure we can collectively deliver a stronger farming industry in Wales for the future.  I will provide further updates to the Assembly on Kevin’s work as his review progresses.