NFU CYMRU has welcomed a commitment to a national food policy and recognition from the Secretary of State that food production is ‘at the heart of all farming businesses’ announced at the Oxford farming conference last week.

The union has also welcomed a commitment for Defra to champion high quality domestic food at home and abroad.

Speaking during the opening politics session at the event were Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Michael Gove MP, US Department of Agriculture Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs Ted McKinney and vice-chairman of the European Parliament’s Agriculture Committee Paolo De Castro.

NFU Cymru president Stephen James said that the commitment shown in Michael Gove’s speech is a positive signal for the farming industry, and he looks forward to seeing the details on this.

Mr James added that Welsh farming has a unique role in producing a safe, affordable and high quality supply of food, as well as caring for 80 per cent of the Welsh countryside.

"I was pleased to hear of the Secretary of State’s commitment to invest in technology, skills and rural resilience - all of which he says are public goods," said Mr James.

"What is also clear is Michael Gove’s commitment to delivering benefits for the environment, something that farmers already advocate and perform highly on.

"Mr Gove was absolutely right to recognise the vital contribution that uplands farmers have in maintaining their iconic landscape.

"Without the productive, resilient and profitable farm businesses across the country, we will not have the people to look after the natural environment."

Mr James added: “A transition period that allows time to prepare properly for the introduction of a new agricultural policy is also is welcome, during which an assessment can be made of the impact of Brexit on UK farming – on trade in the raw ingredients farmers produce, on farm business’ access to a competent and reliable workforce, and on the regulatory environment in which they operate.

"NFU Cymru is up for the challenge of working in partnership with governments in Westminster and Cardiff Bay in reframing agricultural policy for the post-Brexit world.

"With adequate time to prepare, we can ensure that the introduction of an ambitious new policy framework, one that is suited to the needs of the farming industry and the expectations of the UK public, is managed properly and delivered successfully."

The Farmers’ Union of Wales has described comments by leading politicians on post Brexit agriculture made during the 2018 Oxford Farming Conference (OFC) as welcome, but the union says Welsh farmers remain in the dark over many important issues.

FUW President Glyn Roberts said: “We very much welcome Mr Gove’s apparent commitment to agricultural funding until 2024 and the general thrust of his speech, which described a prosperous and forward looking post-Brexit industry which is rewarded for delivering the very best in terms of food, the environment and social contributions to society.

“However, the nuts and bolts of turning such a vision into reality are where the obstacles will lie and we look forward to seeing more meat on the bones in the long-awaited DEFRA white paper, due in the spring.”

Mr Roberts said many Welsh farmers would also be concerned that nothing was said about progress on talks between devolved regions on how devolved powers and funding might operate once we leave the legal framework of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

“Wales currently has devolved powers over agricultural and rural development spending and policy, but this is within the limits laid down in the CAP framework.

“The FUW fully supports such devolved powers continuing. But, we now need to ensure that devolved powers are fully respected by all four nations and that we don't see the creation of support mechanisms that benefit one nation over another.

"Therefore, we need to develop a UK framework which ensures equivalence between producers in the four nations, which respects devolved powers and allows a degree of flexibility.”

While acknowledging that this was a difficult balance to strike, especially given political differences between devolved regions, Mr Roberts said progress was necessary.

“We currently have such a system, so it is not difficult to see how a framework could be developed which strikes a sensible balance between respecting devolved powers and avoiding the dangers of a free-for-all.”

Mr Roberts said reaching sensible agreement on spending frameworks should be a priority, in order to avoid inappropriate and unfair divergence between spending areas in devolved nations.

He also emphasised the need for Mr Gove’s vision for the future of UK agriculture to be underpinned by an acceptable post-Brexit trade deal with the EU.

“I therefore welcome Professor De Castro’s confirmation of the EU’s desire to ensure tariff-free trade between the UK and EU post-Brexit,” he added.

Mr Roberts also welcomed Under Secretary McKinney’s comments regarding the desire to increase agricultural trade between the UK and US, but warned that care needed to be taken to ensure any new arrangements did not compromise existing markets.

“Standards in the US are very different to those in established UK and EU markets, and we need to ensure new arrangements do not compromise or undermine established markets.”