With just ten days until the UK leaves the EU, Rural Affairs Minister, Lesley Griffiths has reassured farmers she is working hard to ensure they have the information and certainty they need to plan for the future.
The Minister was speaking at the Farmers' Union of Wales' traditional Farmhouse Breakfast, where she updated attendees on her recent discussions with the UK Government and why it is so important the views and concerns of Wales’ agriculture industry are heard and acted upon during the Brexit implementation period.
Lesley Griffiths said:
It is now just 10 days before the UK leaves the EU, bringing our 47- year membership to a close. The negotiations on the UK’s future relationship with the EU will be complex and difficult. The UK Government needs to listen to business, including the food and farming industries.
For our part, we want to be constructive partners. Last Monday, I attended the regular Environment, Fisheries and Rural Affairs Inter-Ministerial Group meeting in London. The talks were constructive but the next few months are critical.
It is important farmers, food producers and other businesses have the information they need to plan for the future. We all need to understand where the UK is headed and at what speed.
I continue to call on the UK Government to end the uncertainty by confirming all the EU funding which currently comes to Wales will be replaced.
The Minister also reminded farmers of the crucial role they play as stewards of the rural environment and the importance of meeting consumers’ changing expectations.
Lesley Griffiths added:
There are, of course, other challenges facing Wales and the world – none bigger than climate change. We all have a role to play in tackling the climate emergency and farmers, as custodians of our land, need to be at the centre of these efforts.
Farmers are not just food producers. Their role as stewards of the rural environment is vital to the well-being of Wales. Many do superb work managing and improving soils and habitats and I know the sector can rise to the challenge on water pollution - something that is so detrimental to public health, nature and the rural economy.
Consumers are increasingly conscious of the environmental impacts of their food choices. I firmly believe high-quality meat and dairy products, produced in an environmentally-responsible manner, still have an important place within a balanced diet. But if we are to meet consumers’ changing expectations we must continue to strengthen our identity as a high quality ‘food nation’.
The year ahead is likely to be challenging. But this is an industry full of hard-working and resourceful people. I have every confidence they will rise to these challenges.