NFU CYMRU members from across Wales have spent the day visiting their constituent and regional Assembly Members to voice their concerns over the Welsh Government’s ‘Brexit and Our Land’ consultation.

As part of a co-ordinated plan of political engagement, union members and staff spent a week visiting AMs or inviting them on farm to highlight the impact the ‘Brexit and Our Land’ proposals could have on individual businesses, the environment, tourism, the Welsh economy and rural communities across Wales.

That activity culminated in widespread engagement on Friday, October 26, just days before the consultation, dubbed "the most important in a generation for Welsh farming", drew to a close.

Among those to receive visits from NFU Cymru members or those who visited members on farm were Welsh Conservative leader Paul Davies, as well as AMs Darren Millar, Sian Gwenllian, Lord Dafydd Elis Thomas, Cabinet Secretary for Environment Hannah Blythyn, Janet Finch-Saunders and Plaid Cymru shadow agriculture spokesman Llyr Gruffydd.

NFU Cymru president John Davies was among those to take part in the cross-Wales AM visits, calling in to see his local representative Kirsty Williams.

He said: “As we approach the end of the ‘Brexit and Our Land’ consultation period, it is encouraging to see so many of our members across Wales taking the initiative and raising their concerns about these proposals with their elected representatives.

"The feedback we have received so far is that many AMs have been overwhelmed with the strength of feeling on this subject, with a number of AMs stating that they had received hundreds of responses via the consultation hub hosted on NFU Cymru’s website.

“On behalf of the whole membership, I would like to thank all of those AMs who have made time in their busy schedules to meet with our members and hear their concerns over these proposals.

“This engagement is absolutely crucial at this juncture and it is essential that Assembly Members are armed with the correct facts about the significant impact these plans could have on Welsh agriculture and our rural communities."

Mr Davies added: "We now ask our AMs to ensure that they voice members’ concerns when these plans are discussed and debated in the Senedd Chamber over the coming weeks and months.

"It is absolutely vital that the views of our rural communities are well represented in the political sphere if we are to develop a future agricultural policy that will deliver for the Welsh food industry, our environment, the economy, the tourism sector and, most importantly, our communities.”

Responding to the 'Brexit and Our Land' consultation, NFU Cymru says it does not match Welsh farmers’ ambitions for growth.

"Welsh farmers have a vision for continued growth of the food and farming sector in Wales but are concerned that the Welsh Government’s ‘Brexit and Our Land’ consultation proposals do not match that ambition," stated the union’s formal consultation response.

Following an extensive consultation engagement programme, with an ‘unprecedented’ level of response from its members across Wales, the lack of acknowledgement of the importance of food production in the proposals has emerged as a significant concern for NFU Cymru and its members.

NFU Cymru president John Davies said: “Frustratingly, the proposals contained within the ‘Brexit and Our Land’ consultation do not match the ambition of Welsh farmers who want to play their part in supplying safe, quality, fully traceable food that will underpin further growth of an industry currently worth £6.9 billion to the Welsh economy.

“This omission is extremely surprising when you consider that the Welsh food and drink sector is one of Wales’ four foundation sectors in ‘Prosperity for All – The Economic Action Plan for Wales’ - a national strategy published by Welsh Government only last year to help deliver its priorities for the Assembly term.

“This can be corrected and an opportunity exists for Welsh Government to work with the sector from farm to fork to put in place a sustainable, and fully integrated, Welsh food and farming policy.

"Welsh Government should bring together the work on the new Food and Drink Action Plan and future farming policy to drive towards new bold and ambitious targets to grow our share of produce sold in the UK retail and food service sectors, expand our reach in export markets, and increase the amount of Welsh food procured by the public sector."

Mr Davies stressed that food production and the environment must go hand in hand.

He added: "Future policy should underpin the continued production of world leading food from Wales at the same time as recognising and rewarding farmers for the full range of public goods that they deliver for society.

"Getting this right will be crucial to the development of ‘Brand Wales’, a brand to market and promote Wales as a country of high quality food and drink produced in diverse and beautiful landscapes around a strong natural asset base, on the world stage.”

As part of its response to the Welsh Government document, NFU Cymru has also highlighted its significant fears that, unlike many other countries across the world, the ‘Brexit and Our Land’ proposals do not contain measures to protect Welsh farming businesses against the volatility and instability that the industry has experienced in recent years.

These fears, the union says, are only increased by the uncertainty that the UK’s departure from the European Union will bring.

“During our consultation engagement programme, our membership has reaffirmed the NFU Cymru policy of a future sustainable agriculture programme built around three cornerstones of productivity, environment and stability," said Mr Davies.

"All three combine to give a truly integrated and comprehensive programme that will deliver economically, environmentally, socially and culturally for Wales.

“Without stability, the industry cannot deliver the outcomes that the Welsh public associates with the sector.

"Vibrant farm businesses underpin the delivery of a broad range of goods and services for Wales.

"This starts with the production of safe, high quality, traceable, affordable food and includes maintaining our iconic Welsh landscapes, enhancing the quality of our environment, supporting tourism, and underpinning the vitality of our rural communities and the Welsh language."

Mr Davies added: “We are also concerned that thorough impact assessments have not been carried out into the long-term impact of the withdrawal of support payments for active food producing family farms, and the knock-on effect this will have on rural communities in Wales.

“Fundamentally, NFU Cymru does not support the phasing out of current schemes until there is clear evidence that replacement policies can deliver at least the same level of stability for farming businesses, the food supply chain and rural communities that current policies provide.”