Farmers’ Union of Wales Deputy County Executive Officer Helen Thomas has provided the following New Year’s message to members.

"Blink and you will have missed it! Christmas has been and gone and the New Year is here. For FUW staff it’s back to work this week and we are here if you need us, just give us a call first before dropping in to the office.

2021 threw many challenges and stumbling blocks at our industry and the question on our mind is - what will 2022 bring? This time last year, we warned about how the introduction of non-tariff barriers for goods entering the EU would have a severe impact on the UK’s ability to maintain the same level of exports.

The latest HMRC figures for 2021 confirm falls of around 25% and 30% in the export categories into which red meat and dairy products fall. All of this was to be expected, but thankfully prices for our main agricultural commodities have remained high. This is however not the result of Brexit, since the same trends have been reflected across much of the globe, including in the EU.

We mustn’t get blinded by those buoyant prices received in 2021 and let them lull us into a false sense of security. Deals which further open the door to products that do not meet our own standards will be taken advantage of by our competitors whenever global markets make that viable - be that in a year or ten years’ time.

If MPs fail to stop such trade deals becoming law, and global markets change in a way which floods our markets with cheaper products, our reliance as farmers on the income safety net provided through direct support will rise from the 80% or so where it is currently.

Farmers across the border in England are finally waking up to the repercussions of doing away with this support.

Their BPS payments were already cut by an average of 10% in 2021 and further cuts rising to more than 50% by 2024 are on the way.

The Welsh Government’s welcome decision to revise its timetable and take more time to design, model and transition to a new scheme, along with its increased emphasis on active farmers and family farms, come as a result of significant lobbying by the FUW.

Whether the Welsh Government plans to ultimately follow the same course as England, as originally intended, remains to be seen though and members can be assured that we will keep a close eye on this.

The publication of a draft Welsh Agriculture Bill in spring this year will likely reveal whether the change of tone is genuinely reflected in a policy framework that will avoid the pitfalls of what is already happening for our English colleagues, while meeting the Welsh Well-being Act objectives relating to prosperity, equality and culture.

As always, be assured that we will be doing all we can to ensure we have thriving, sustainable family farmers here in Wales."