Alan Davies AM, Minister for Natural Resources and Food
Gareth Williams returned earlier this year at my invitation to review progress and to assess whether improvements sought through his Working Smarter recommendations have been achieved. Gareth presented me with the Working Smarter Update Report: Growing the Welsh Farm Business, which I welcomed in the Oral Statement I made to the Assembly on 12 March.
Gareth’s second report presented a positive picture of the delivery of the 74 recommendations in his original Working Smarter report (A report of recommendations to the Welsh Government on better regulation in farming) confirming that 29 recommendations were already complete and almost all of the remainder were being progressed.
A Welsh Government response to the report has now been published and I have accepted Gareth’s appraisal of progress to date, and his recommended direction of travel including the 4 new recommendations he has made to me.
One key recommendation within the original Working Smarter report was the introduction of an annual Farming Conference. The first of these will be held on Thursday in Llandrindod Wells. The conference will bring together the key players in agriculture. It will create a platform for the Welsh Government to set out its stall on our plans for agriculture during the next twelve months and in the longer term. Of equal importance, it will provide key stakeholders with an opportunity to state how they will work alongside Government to deliver what the industry needs over the next few years.
Gareth has set an absolute deadline of July 2015 for the completion of all his recommendations and I have accepted that challenging deadline. I am confident that by 2015 our Working Smarter initiative combined with a range of other measures including CAP reform, Farming Connect, the Young Entrant Support Scheme, online systems to name but a few, will present the farming industry in Wales with a comprehensive support package. This, alongside a more measured and appropriate regulatory framework, will act as an enabler for farmers, especially those prepared to embrace change to concentrate on growing and developing their businesses to their full potential.