Rebecca Evans, Deputy Minister for Farming and Food
Following Royal Assent of the Agricultural Sector (Wales) Bill on 30 July 2014, I launched a 12 week consultation on 7 August 2014 to seek the views of the Welsh public on the constitution and functions of the Agricultural Advisory Panel for Wales proposed under the Act.
The consultation closed on 30 October 2014 and 23 responses were received from a variety of organisations and individuals representing diverse interests within the Welsh agricultural industry.
The reaction from the industry to the proposals for an Agricultural Advisory Panel for Wales has been positive and constructive, with many respondents suggesting innovative methods by which the Panel might operate and a variety of issues the Panel might consider.
The Panel will of course have an important role in developing a fair framework for wages in the agricultural sector. However the broader function of the Panel as an advisory body has also been welcomed by respondents - in particular the role the Panel can play to advise on skills, career development and professionalization in the sector. Respondents identified an opportunity here for the Panel to liaise closely with institutions of higher education and land based training.
A wide range of organisations representing the breadth of the agricultural sector in Wales have been suggested for membership of the Panel. Respondents were also keen to make the point that the Panel should have a fair and balanced representation. The general view is that the Panel’s membership should represent the main sub-sectors within the industry while also possessing the necessary skills, experience and expertise to take forward its remit.
The members of the Panel will be chosen through the public appointment process and in consultation with interested parties, including unions representing both employers and workers. Given the vast remit of the Panel and the time required for correct and effective consultation we hope to have the Panel members selected and the framework in place by the end of 2015.
I would like to place on record my sincere thanks to all those who took the time to consider and respond to the consultation proposals and I look forward to continuing to work closely with stakeholders to create this historic body which will assist in further developing professionalism, efficiency and prosperity within Welsh agriculture.
In the meantime, I have also decided that an Interim Wages Order will be required. The process of creating the Agricultural Advisory Panel is underway, but until the Panel members convene, an interim wages order will correct the existing disparities in agricultural wages, protect the lowest paid workers and maintain progression incentive for skills development. Proposals for an Interim Wages Order will be put forward for consultation early in 2015.
These actions will ensure fair incentives for those working on Welsh farms while also helping us put in place favourable conditions that will support the move towards a more efficient and prosperous future for the industry as a whole.