Pwyllgor yr Economi, Masnach a Materion Gwledig
Economy, Trade, and Rural Affairs Committee05/10/2022
Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol
Committee Members in Attendance
|Hefin David AS|
|Luke Fletcher AS|
|Paul Davies AS||Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor|
|Samuel Kurtz AS|
|Sarah Murphy AS|
|Vikki Howells AS|
Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol
Others in Attendance
|Bill Cordingley||Llywodraeth Cymru|
|Dorian Brunt||Llywodraeth Cymru|
|Hannah Fernandez||Llywodraeth Cymru|
|James Owen||Llywodraeth Cymru|
|Lesley Griffiths AS||Y Gweinidog Materion Gwledig a Gogledd Cymru, a’r Trefnydd|
|Minister for Rural Affairs and North Wales, and Trefnydd|
Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol
Senedd Officials in Attendance
|Katie Wyatt||Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol|
|Lara Date||Ail Glerc|
|Masudah Ali||Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol|
Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Lle mae cyfranwyr wedi darparu cywiriadau i’w tystiolaeth, nodir y rheini yn y trawsgrifiad.
The proceedings are reported in the language in which they were spoken in the committee. In addition, a transcription of the simultaneous interpretation is included. Where contributors have supplied corrections to their evidence, these are noted in the transcript.
Cyfarfu’r pwyllgor yn y Senedd a thrwy gynhadledd fideo.
Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 09:59.
The committee met in the Senedd and by video-conference.
The meeting began at 09:59.
Croeso, bawb, i'r cyfarfod hwn o Bwyllgor yr Economi, Masnach a Materion Gwledig y Senedd. Dwi ddim wedi derbyn unrhyw ymddiheuriadau. A oes yna unrhyw fuddiannau hoffai Aelodau eu datgan o gwbl? Sam Kurtz.
Welcome, everyone, to this meeting of the Economy, Trade, and Rural Affairs Committee in the Senedd. I haven't received any apologies. Are there any declarations of interest that Members would like to declare? Sam Kurtz.
Diolch, Cadeirydd. I'm a director of the Wales Federation of Young Farmers Clubs.
Diolch yn fawr iawn. A oes yna unrhyw fuddiannau eraill? Nac oes.
Thank you very much. Are there any other declarations of interest? No.
Symudwn ni ymlaen felly i eitem 2, sef papurau i'w nodi. Fe welwch chi dau bapur i'w nodi, sef llythyr gen i i'r Gweinidog Materion Gwledig a Gogledd Cymru, a'r Trefnydd, a llythyr gan Weinidog yr Economi a'r Gweinidog Cyllid a Llywodraeth Leol yn ymateb i adroddiad y pwyllgor. A oes yna unrhyw faterion hoffai Aelodau codi o'r papurau yma o gwbl? Nac oes.
We will move on, therefore, to item 2, which is papers to note. You will see that there are two papers to note, a letter from the Chair to the Minister for Rural Affairs and North Wales, and Trefnydd, and a letter from the Minister for Economy and the Minister for Finance and Local Government in response to the committee's report. Are there any issues that Members would like to raise in relation to those papers at all? No.
Felly, symudwn ni ymlaen i eitem 3 ar ein hagenda. Dyma sesiwn dystiolaeth gyntaf y pwyllgor i ystyried egwyddorion cyffredinol Bil Amaethyddiaeth (Cymru) a gyflwynwyd ar 26 Medi ac a gyfeiriwyd at y pwyllgor hwn at ddibenion craffu. Gaf i groesawu'r Gweinidog Materion Gwledig a Gogledd Cymru, a'r Trefnydd a'i swyddogion i'r sesiwn yma? Gaf i ofyn iddi gyflwyno ei hunan a'i swyddogion i'r record a wedyn efallai allwn ni symud yn syth wedyn i gwestiynau. Gweinidog.
So, we will move on to item 3 on our agenda, which is an evidence session—the first evidence session—for the committee to consider the general principles of the Agriculture (Wales) Bill that was introduced on 26 September and was referred to this committee for scrutiny. Can I welcome the Minister for Rural Affairs and North Wales, and Trefnydd and her officials to this session? Can I ask her please to introduce herself and her officials for the record and then we will be able to move immediately to questions? Minister.
Diolch, Paul. I'm Lesley Griffiths, I'm the Minister for Rural Affairs and North Wales, and Trefnydd. I'm joined today by Hannah Fernandez, who is head of policy instructions for the Bill; James Owen, deputy director for land management reform; Dorian Brunt, a senior lawyer on the rural affairs team; and Bill Cordingley, a lawyer from the environment team.
Thank you very much for those introductions. Perhaps I can kick off this session with a series of questions. Now, there are four sustainable land management objectives in the agriculture Bill. Can you tell us how will the four sustainable land management objectives be balanced in the exercise of the relevant functions, and how will you ensure that each objective receives equal priority going forward?
Thank you. So, the objectives are designed to be complementary. So, there’s no pyramid, if you like; there’s no hierarchy. That reflects our approach to supporting the economic, the environmental, the social and the cultural sustainability of our agricultural sector here in Wales. The sustainable land management duty requires Welsh Ministers to consider all four objectives and to exercise their functions in the best way that then contributes to achieve those objectives when they’re taken together. So, it doesn’t require a Welsh Minister to exercise a relevant function in a way that achieves all four objectives in absolutely every case. So, it will be possible, for example, to make a significant contribution to one of them whilst making, perhaps, little or indeed no contribution to the others. So, as I say, it’s complementary; you don’t have to prioritise at all.
Okay. Thanks for that. I know that Luke Fletcher would like to come in on this particular issue. Luke.
Diolch, Cadeirydd. I just wanted to—. There are two particular points on the objectives, or questions. Looking at the first one—to produce food and other goods in a sustainable manner—I was just wondering if there was a specific definition for ‘sustainable manner’.
I don’t think there’s a definition for sustainable in that respect, is there?
No, not in the Bill. What we’ve done is made a number of proposals in the sustainable farming scheme that support sustainable farm practice. So, I think what we’re really talking about here are the types of activity that can happen on farm to help produce food and other goods in an environmentally sustainable way. It may be useful just to give an example of that. For example, we have an action in the proposed scheme that is looking to support farmers to look at cover crops—so, planting cover crops that will fix nitrogen in the soil. That’s good for the environment but also good for feed and fodder for livestock.
Okay. And on to the second question I was going to ask: the Farmers Union of Wales have been pushing for a fifth objective, which is around the economic impact of farming. Is that something that you’ve had a chance to consider, or is it something you would consider bringing in at a later stage?
Yes, we are considering it. I have to say, I think it was Plaid Cymru, as part of the co-operation agreement, that raised that first with me. So, it’s certainly something that we’re in discussions with them on. I think Sam Kurtz also mentioned it to me and, indeed, the FUW have. So, yes, it is something that we are looking at as we, obviously, progress the Bill.
Okay. Diolch, Luke. Now, I understand that Welsh Ministers must prepare a sustainable land management statement that includes at least one indicator and one target for each objective, and mandatory consultation with one consultee. Now, did you consider a higher baseline for these monitoring duties? Why just one indicator and why just one target?
So, these are really important provisions and I think it’s important that we don’t just have a load of targets or indicators that don’t really mean very much. I think it’s really important that they’re meaningful. So, we’re aiming, again, to strike a balance. So, if you have one distinct target and an indicator for each objective—. We want to strike a balance between scrutiny whilst ensuring that monitoring and reporting processes are relevant, they’re accurate and they’re useful, so that that will advise us then on future policy decisions and obviously future support that will be required. So, I think if you have—each and every action having a corresponding indicator and target could quickly make that progress very unwieldy. I think, as I say, if you have a load of targets, they just would become meaningless, really.
Okay. And how will the support scheme uphold resilience in the agri-food sector to ensure that it can absorb and respond to shocks such as climate change, war, poverty and financial instability? And how does this Bill ensure food security overall as well?
So, I think you’re right to talk about the support scheme. Obviously, we announced the outline details of that ahead of the Royal Welsh Show, because we know that the two go hand in hand. Future generations of farmers are going to be farming in much more difficult conditions. We’ve seen the impact of climate change this year, haven’t we, with the heatwave and drought. So, I think what we need to do now is respond to those climate and nature emergencies to make sure that we make the sector as resilient as possible for those future generations. And, for me, those two emergencies pose real challenges for our farming sector.
What the proposed scheme has set out is that we will support sustainable farming practices. So, others have mentioned sustainable food production already. It’s really important that we work in partnership with our farmers in order to support them in the correct way and pay them for actions that obviously will carry a lot of outcomes, a lot of environmental outcomes. They’ll deliver benefits to the farm business as well as the environment, as well as animal health and welfare, for instance, and that will be in line with our sustainable land management objectives that are set out in the Bill.
If you think about it, a lot of the things that we will be asking farmers to do, they’re already doing. And they’re not getting rewarded for them at the current time with the basic payment scheme. So, again, that’s a message I think that’s come out very strongly over the last six years that we’ve been designing this Bill. We also want them to undertake actions that’ll help reduce their business costs, because, clearly, there's the cost-of-living crisis, and we’ve all heard about farm inflation running at 30 per cent at the moment.
So, what we’ve done is we’ve proposed things like soil testing, because we think, obviously, that will help inform more efficient use of fertilisers, for instance, so that will help them reduce their costs. So, again, I think one of the conversations we’ve been having is, 'If you invest now in your soil and your habitats et cetera, that will really build up that resilience for shocks that do come.' We’ve seen, haven’t we, how many shocks we’ve had just over the last couple of years.
And can you tell us how does your approach to agricultural support differ to other UK nations, and indeed other European countries? And what are the implications of any divergence with regards to this particular Bill?
So, I think we’ve always said, as you know—you’ll have heard me say it many times before—we meet as four agricultural Ministers regularly. We haven’t met, unfortunately, since the Royal Welsh Show. We were due to meet, I think, during the mourning period. So, that is something that we will do later this month. I think we’ve always said that, once we left the European Union, we would each have a bespoke agricultural policy for our own countries that probably, at the end of the day, wouldn’t differ much. So, it’s been really interesting—over the course of all the inter-ministerial group meetings, we’ve all done a presentation on what we’re bringing forward. So, I think for me—and you’d expect me to say this—we’re leading the way here in relation to the sustainable land management framework for our Bill and obviously our sustainable farming scheme. But there is a common direction of travel, I would say, across all the UK countries and also the EU. I was talking to an official a couple of weeks ago, and they were saying, obviously, the common agricultural policy is being looked at by the EU now and, again, it is following the direction of travel that we have.
In England, they’ve already phased out—or they’ve started to phase out, sorry—the basic payment scheme. They’ve had two incredibly significant reductions to their budget over the last couple of years. They were first out of the traps, if you like, and they brought forward environmental land management. I think there’s been a bit of a backtrack on that now, but, of course, there’s been a new Secretary of State and I think that’s fair enough, for the new Secretary of State to look at it. I haven't seen the detail of what he's looking at at the moment; it would be good to find out at the inter-ministerial group. I hope they're not backing away from the environment protections that they had in it, but we'll see about that. Scotland have put in their successor to the common agricultural policy, and they, again, are having a look at a more sustainable way forward for a reformed agriculture sector, and Northern Ireland as well. I think it's fair to say that I, and certainly officials, pay close attention to what other countries are doing, but, for me, this is absolutely right for Wales. This is bespoke. This is made in Wales. You know how many consultations—. We've had three consultations, the White Paper, endless discussions with farmers. James is on a farm, I think, a lot—most weeks—talking to farmers, and the stakeholders have really had a huge amount of input into this policy.
So, your overall view is that you don't believe there'll be much divergence between the UK nations.
No, probably, at the end of the day, when all of the Acts are in place and the policies there, I think there will be a huge focus on the environment in a way that we haven't seen before. Yes, I do.
Okay, thanks. I'll now bring in Hefin David. Hefin.
Gaf i ofyn yn Gymraeg, os gwelwch yn dda? I ba raddau mae cytundebau masnach sydd newydd eu sefydlu a'u rhagweld wedi eu hystyried wrth ddatblygu'r cynllun cymorth a fframwaith SLM?
Can I ask in Welsh, please? To what extent have newly established and anticipated trade deals been considered in the development of the support scheme and SLM framework?
Diolch. So, we have an environment and rural affairs monitoring and modelling programme. That collects data from right across the Welsh landscape from the sector, and that then links any changes to the impacts on a wide range of benefits, and that includes economic consequences. That programme has an integrated modelling platform, and that simulates the potential effects of Government policies on agriculture and the natural environment here in Wales. That obviously helps us then with policy development as we go forward. It gives us very rapid, I think, integrated assessments of the impacts of a change in policy, for instance, or of economic scenarios.
So, we have used that to have a look at the impacts of some of the trade deals that we've seen since we've left the European Union. It's also directly used to support the development of the proposed sustainable farming scheme as well, going forward. But I think it's fair to say we are concerned about the cumulative impact of some of the trade deals, so you'll be aware of the Australia trade deal particularly, and the New Zealand trade deal, and I think it's fair to say not just myself, but my Cabinet colleagues as well, have really impressed on the UK Government the importance of not allowing imports that are of lower quality than ours from an environmental point of view or an animal health point of view. That certainly is a concern of mine.
Much has been made of the fact the First Minister's struggled to have dialogue with the Prime Minister, with the new Prime Minister. How is your dialogue going in regard to this and its impact on the development of the Bill?
Unfortunately, I haven't met the new Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary of State. We did have two phone calls in the diary, both of which he pulled, unfortunately. And as I say, the IMG was cancelled, but that was because of the mourning period. But I am quite keen to start those discussions, because I have to say that George Eustice, the previous Secretary of State at DEFRA, was very supportive of ensuring, the same as me, that the trade deals were not—that, you know, we're not going to have an unlevel playing field for our farmers. And he was very, very supportive, I would say, of the stance that I and Scotland and Northern Ireland took; I think he shared those concerns. So, I would like some reassurance that the new Secretary of State has them, but I haven't had the opportunity yet.
Okay. Thanks, Hefin. I'll now bring in Sam Kurtz. Sam.
Diolch, Cadeirydd. Good morning, Minister.
Good morning, everybody. So, firstly, do you have more powers or fewer powers with this agricultural Bill?
Do I have more powers or fewer powers? I'm going to look at Dorian here. I know you sent a note, didn't you, on the powers.
Yes. I sent a note to the committee on a comparison between what's in Schedule 5 of the Agriculture Act 2020 and those provisions as they appear in this Bill, so, in that respect, you may have seen from the note—. I don't know if you've got it yet.
Yes. We only received the note first thing this morning, so, to be fair to Members, I don't think Members have had an opportunity yet to have a look at that note.
Okay. Well, the note shows a comparison between the different types—between the provisions in Schedule 5 and in the Bill. But the summary is that, in respect of powers to modify the basic payment scheme and common agricultural policy, the Bill gives wider powers to the Welsh Ministers than appear in Schedule 5. There is a provision in respect of exceptional market conditions that puts beyond doubt that the Welsh Ministers can provide support for losses incurred before an exceptional market conditions declaration is made, and the powers to modify retained EU law in respect of market intervention and private storage have been broadened. So, in respect of Schedule 5 powers, they are more expanded in several respects in this Bill, and, of course, Part 1 about SLM and the indicators and targets and the power of support is new, it's bespoke Welsh policy, as the Minister said. So, in that respect, those are more powers than we've had and that we've got at present.
More but different, I would say—or different but more. [Laughter.] I'm not quite sure. Perhaps I'll pass over to James, actually, Sam.
Just to reiterate the point there that the Bill, obviously, provides that new framework for sustainable land management that didn't exist before, and also those purposes of support, the powers that provide the support to the sector against the definition of agriculture and ancillary activities in the Bill. So, in that sense, coming out of the common agriculture policy, where a lot of policy decisions were set by member states, this provides Welsh Ministers with the power to do that directly.
Okay, excellent. Thank you. That's helpful. So, with these more but different powers, how do you intend to use those to provide support for ancillary activities, particularly those further up the supply chain? I'm talking selling, marketing, packaging et cetera and distribution of products. How do you intend to use that 'more' power?
You're right—I think we can help farmers get produce to market better in relation to the future support for the ancillary activities, but those activities have got to absolutely be designed to benefit our farmers. We're not going to divert support away from farmers. I think it's really important to set that out in relation to ancillary activities. So, it's shorter supply chains, for instance. I think it would be good to develop shorter supply chains for them. Promoting the circular economy would be another one I think that we could do there. Also, I think it's important that we encourage further collaboration between farmers to make sure they take the very best and most of those market opportunities that are available. A farmer would need to play an active role in those activities, because, ultimately, that will benefit their farm business and, of course, from there, it will benefit the rural community.
Fab. You didn't mention it directly, but, on public procurement, would that be one element where support could be directed?
Certainly we could look at that, but, as I say, we wouldn't want to be directing it away from the farmers.
No, okay. So, I think you mentioned it, but just to build on it in the next answer, what impact would the powers used in terms of ancillary activities have on the budget available to farmers and how would this differ from the status quo of the CAP?
So, the budget is obviously a very, very difficult area, and a place where you know I've got grave concern. We were promised not a penny less. That clearly has not happened, and I really am going to push and continue to push for the budget to remain. So, whenever we do policy or an assessment on anything to do with SFS or the agri Bill, we have to do it on what we've been having for the last few years. That's the only way we can do it, but I don't have any assurance of my budget beyond the ring fence of the current UK parliamentary term, so it's really difficult for any of first to be certain of the budget we've got. I really do wish—and if anybody has any influence and help they can give me here—the UK Government, rather than looking at bankers, would just give our hard-working farmers a bit of security and a bit of certainty in these really uncertain times, and just help us with that budget, because if I've got a budget of zero, then that's not very good, is it? So, whilst I'm sure that will never be the case, because I can't envisage a time when we would not support our farmers, it just would be good to have some assurance around the budget.
Where does rural development programme money fit within the new agriculture Bill?
Again, we're, obviously, bringing forward our own RDP, if you like, schemes and looking at those, but, again, when we don't know what the budgets are, it's really difficult to plan. I tried to give some certainty to farmers in relation to BPS, keeping that going to the end of 2023. Glastir, for instance—it's been really important that we don't throw the baby out with the bath water; we've got so many benefits from Glastir. But, it's hard to work out any schemes when you don't know what your budget is. So, they'll need to be complementary, but until I get some assurance about my budget—. I'm questioned sometimes, 'Can you just take it from another part of your budget?', but, when you don't know what your budget is, it's very, very difficult.
You mentioned Glastir there. What provisions are within the Bill to ensure that public funds and grants are going to active Welsh farmers, rather than, say, corporations buying up Welsh land for forestry?
That's part of the sustainable farming scheme and, as you say, the RDP. We know there is funding going for tree planting, for instance, on land that is owned by somebody in England. We can't stop that if the trees are in Wales. The really important thing—you mentioned the words 'active farmers', and that's been very much a part of the SFS for me—is that it is the active farmer who's rewarded. But, it is very difficult. We've had a lot of anecdotal discussion; I wouldn't say I've seen the evidence that big corporate companies have been coming in to buy land to plant trees for carbon offsetting, for instance. As I say, I've not seen a huge amount of evidence on that. But, it is very difficult, if somebody's got an English address and they're planting trees—I'm not on about big corporates; I'm on about individuals.
Thank you. Finally, just back onto the powers element, how do you intend to use the powers to modify existing legislation on agricultural support in the transition to the new scheme?
I suppose this is about futureproofing. We're using those powers to look at what we can do around the scheme. What we really want to do at the moment is prepare our farmers for the sustainable farming scheme. You know the significant work that James and the team have been doing. Certainly, the discussions I had with farmers over the summer were that the universal actions of the scheme is obviously where most people are focusing. They really want to be prepared for that transition from the basic payment scheme to the sustainable farming scheme to be in the best position to be part of that scheme. We also want to pilot some elements of the scheme. At the moment, we're in the second stage of the co-design of the scheme, as you know. James was out on a farm all day on Monday signing up another 100 farmers—this is a bit of a plug now—so, please do the online survey by the end of October to help us with the co-design of the scheme. We're using this period now before we transition to the SFS, and I've always said we won't transition until it's absolutely ready. So, this isn't going to happen anytime soon. This is going to take, obviously, until 2025. We'll be out to consultation again on the scheme next year. But, as I've already mentioned, we've put in place the basic payment scheme and Glastir until the end of 2023, which I hope provided some certainty in these very challenging and uncertain times. I've already said that my knowledge of the budget beyond that is not known.
Can I quickly come back, Chair, on one? In terms of the transition from BPS to the sustainable farming scheme, will it be a blanket that all farms across Wales will transition—not a cliff edge, per se, but they will transition over—or will you start with a smaller sample of farms from a cross-section of upland, lowland, coastal and then trickle out, so some will be on BPS while some are on SFS?
There certainly won't be a cliff edge. We've made that very clear. There will not be that cliff edge, because I think that would just be a disaster for the sector. So, no—everyone will transition at the same time.
Okay, thank you, Chair.
Thank you, Sam. We'll now bring in Luke Fletcher. Luke.
Diolch, Cadeirydd. If I can just come to the intervention element in agricultural markets, I'm wondering in which circumstances you would consider exercising the powers to declare exceptional market conditions. So, for example, what would constitute a severe disturbance in agricultural markets?
We've seen them, haven't we, already in the past few years. The powers I wouldn't intend to use very often, but I think it was really important that they were built into the Bill. If you remember, at the beginning of the COVID pandemic, because of hospitality being closed, for instance, we saw a significant slump in milk being used. That would be one example. I think the Ukrainian war has obviously had an impact, and that could be something if there was, hopefully not, another war, but there could be. I think any large-scale business disruption that is obviously not the fault of the farmer is something that we would look at as being an event. And to go back to what I was saying about the hospitality sector, that's why we provided financial support for dairy farmers, because of the slump in milk sales at the beginning of the pandemic. Obviously, extreme weather could be another thing that we could think would be a big event to disrupt the market. But I think having those powers in the Bill does give us, and gives Welsh Ministers, the flexibility to be able to react quickly. Obviously, it's very important that we talk to other countries in relation to that as well, and certainly the discussions I've had with other Ministers from the UK is that they would look to do something similar.
I suppose that leads me on nicely to my next question, in terms of what exact mechanisms are in place to co-ordinate with other UK Governments. The FUW, for example, expressed concerns that different Governments might have different views on what would constitute a need to intervene in the markets, which then, in turn, could disrupt the internal markets. Are there specific mechanisms in place? Do we think that co-ordination and consultation should be in the Bill?
There are mechanisms in place, which we've used very widely, particularly during the pandemic. It was really important. Because the food and the supply chain is so integrated right across the UK, there is that in place. We've got the UK agriculture market monitoring group and a policy collaboration group, so officials sit on both of those. And certainly during COVID—I think that's probably the best example I can give as to what the powers could be used for—I was meeting, probably, gosh, three times a week with Ministers from right across the UK to talk about the severe disruption that we were going through. So, absolutely the mechanisms are in place, there are terms of reference, there's governance—it's all ready, all there.
Should that be baked into the Bill itself, then? So, should the provisions for co-ordination—?
No, I don't think it needs to be in the Bill itself, because it's part of the common framework—the agricultural support common framework. We worked very hard, when we left the European Union, on the frameworks. I think my department had the most frameworks of any department. I think we had over 100 when we left the European Union. So, I think the frameworks absolutely work really well, and this one has, obviously, been tested quite a lot, following the pandemic.
I'll now bring in Vikki Howells. Vikki.
Thank you, Chair. Good morning, Minister. One of the sectors that we're really keen to explore here as a committee is tenant farmers. In fact, as a committee, we were out meeting with tenant farmers just last week. So, can I ask you, first of all, how confident you are that the provisions of the Bill will provide Agricultural Holdings Act 1986 tenants access to future schemes?
Thank you. A very important part of the agriculture sector in Wales are the tenant farmers, so I'm really pleased you've been able to get out and meet them. I'm confident the regulation-making provisions, alongside the very careful design of the sustainable farming scheme, will enable fair access to future schemes for our agricultural tenants. The provisions that we have will incentivise the Agricultural Holdings Act tenants and landlords to come to a negotiated agreement in order to avoid the cost of a lengthy dispute resolution, for instance. It also provides a legislative backstop and a means of resolution for those tenants who are unable to come to a reasonable agreement with their landlords. We are convening an agricultural tenancy group—I think I just signed off the terms of reference and the group membership—because they are a very specific part of our agricultural sector. They're very good lobbyists, as they should be, so it is really important that we make sure that what we're bringing forward absolutely enables them to access the scheme particularly. I think what we're proposing is quite similar to England. We're looking at what other countries are doing as well.
Thank you. Do you feel that those provisions will allow equal access to the future support scheme for both the Agricultural Holdings Act tenancies and farm business tenancies as well?
I think it's really important that we have fair access for all types of agricultural tenancy arrangements. We didn't have a huge number of respondents to the White Paper on this issue, and I think the provisions are less relevant to the farm business tenancies. They are much more modern, for instance; they've been probably negotiated more frequently over the years. I think others felt that there were already sufficient mechanisms in place for those that have farm business tenancies as opposed to AHA tenancies going forward. But that's why the Bill doesn't make a similar amendment to FBTs as it does to AHA tenancies.
Thank you, Minister.
I'll now bring in Sarah Murphy. Sarah.
Thank you, Chair. Good morning, Minister.
I'm going to ask some questions about the collection and sharing of data. So, can I ask, how do you intend to use the powers on collection and sharing of data? For example, what type of data do you envisage collecting, how will it be used, and will it be in line with, I suppose, GDPR?
In advance of any data being collected, we would publish our intent on the type that we needed to be collected and the purpose, why it should be collected, how it will be collected, and, I think, how it will be used—I think it's really important that we set that out. So, I suppose we could look at productivity. For me, traceability is really important, animal health and welfare, for instance, and again, lots of this data probably will already be collected, and it's really important that we use what's there. Price information would be something that we could be looking at as well—that might help manage a bit of risk and market volatility as well.
I mentioned traceability, and I think having the data on an animal—the date of birth, the death, the movements in between—would be important as well. Plant pests and diseases—that's another area I think we could improve on with the data collection as well. One area that we've been looking at, and I've been working on very closely with the chief veterinary officer, is collection around antibiotic use in cattle, for instance. So, we could use that as well to monitor the impact of antibiotic use. We all know that we need to reduce the use of antibiotics and that's something that the sector has really led on. So, I think any data that would be collected would enable more effective market monitoring going forward.
Absolutely. So, will people who you collect data from be required to give consent, and how will that be gained?
Yes, absolutely. And one of the things that the farmers have been telling us is that we mustn't make it more bureaucratic; it's really important that we make it as simple as possible. So, as I said, I think some of this data will already be collected, and it's really important that we don't duplicate, because nobody's got the time for duplication in anything.
Absolutely. And then, just to ask, is there a possibility that, legally, the data could be sold to third parties?
Sorry, could you repeat that, Sarah?
Is it possible that the data could be sold to third parties?
I'm going to look to a lawyer, I think, for that.
It may be one for Dorian.
What I would say about the data collection and sharing provisions is that, at section 28, it gives a list of purposes for which the data can be collected, and you'd be looking for a purpose in there to share with third parties, which isn't in there. So, my consideration is that the Bill doesn't provide for that.
Okay. I just wanted to check that. So, no—legally, under what's being proposed in the Bill, data couldn't be sold to third parties, or given away.
That's the legal view. I think probably if it's different, Chair, we could send a note after consideration.
That would be brilliant, because obviously a lot of what you've said is pretty much what GDPR is, but the UK Government intend to get rid of GDPR now, so I was wondering if any consideration had been given to if that is removed, what that would mean for the data collection, and what would it mean—. Because obviously, those protections came under EU law, so I was just wondering if any consideration had been—or if you've talked with UK Government, I suppose, about how that could impact the Bill.
Can you pick that up, Dorian?
I can't comment on what discussions there've been with the UK Government, but what I would say about the data collection provisions is that they're very detailed, and there are a considerable number of limitations in there for what data can be collected for and how it can be used. And also, any regulations made in respect of collection and sharing of data are subject to the affirmative procedure, so, those regulations would require a majority in the Senedd to pass them. And also, what I would say as well, in section 29, where we're publishing a set of requirements that we would be asking relevant persons to provide, there's a deadline for making comments. So, we can't do anything in less than four weeks. So, there's an engagement with stakeholders—they've got four weeks to make comments—and also the Senedd would need to approve regulations made in accordance with the affirmative procedure. I can confirm that any Senedd legislation would be in compliance with GDPR and data protection legislation.
Okay. Thank you very much, and I think you answered my second question about trying to make sure that it's not too burdensome for the farmers. So, thank you very much. Back to you, Chair.
Thank you, Sarah. I'll now bring in Luke Fletcher. Luke.
Diolch, Cadeirydd. Just to follow on from Sarah's line of questioning there, I'm wondering what co-ordination with other UK administrations there would be in exercising some of these powers.
Well, we already work with other countries in the UK in relation to making sure that the data is accurate as possible. So, as I say, we already do that, and I think we will just continue to do that. I mentioned the UK agriculture market monitoring group that's already there; I think we will just continue to use that group as a mechanism for sharing the data.
Okay. And is there any reason why the data protection provisions in the Agriculture Act 2020 are not reflected in the Bill?
We don't need to do that, because agriculture is wholly devolved here. We've got the provision equivalent, paragraph 19 of Schedule 5 isn't needed. I am going to look to Dorian to explain more if need be, but the data sharing provisions in the Bill, irrespective of whether there are similar provisions in the UK Bill, for instance, they need to comply with the overarching data protection, I think I'm right in saying.
Yes, I agree. We don't have to legislate in the same way as the UK Government, so we've carefully considered everything that's in Schedule 5. And in respect of paragraph 19 of Schedule 5, we've concluded that it's not necessary because it doesn't add anything substantively to the data sharing provisions. As the Minister said, we'll have to comply with overarching data protection legislation in any event.
I'll now bring in Hefin David. Hefin.
Can I ask some specific questions on Part 3, chapters 2 and 3, and that's marketing standards and carcass classification? I'll let you find the section there. How do you intend to use the provisions on marketing standards and carcass classification, especially in the context of new trade deals?
So, the provisions will be used in circumstances where, for instance, something like technological development or an opportunity for greater efficiencies in supply chains would mean a change to regulations is desirable. Changes to marketing standards legislation have been made multiple times in recent years. Some are very minor, some are very technical in nature, but that's been done multiple times. For instance, laying down labelling requirements for packages containing different varieties of fruit and veg—that's one area—and we had one in relation to water content for poultry meat. So, these are things that, as I say, we do a lot.
Again, we work in collaboration with DEFRA on the introduction of mandatory sheep carcass classification regulations. We did that to use some time-limited powers from a provision in the Agriculture Act 2020. So, we've been working with DEFRA on that. Until we know, really, the equivalent standards in the UK Government's trade negotiations, it's really difficult to predict what we're going to need and what we're going to do. So, those discussions are obviously ongoing.
Does that present a difficulty, then, in the Bill, particularly with regard to cross-border consistency on carcass classification? You said that you're in discussion with DEFRA, you haven't got a great relationship with the Minister at the moment. Are you concerned that, if you haven't got clarity in the Bill, it will become a problem later down the line?
I think it's important that we do have more knowledge than we've got. The whole point of this Bill is that this is going to be here for a long time, so the futureproofing that I've discussed already, it's really important that we have that. But it is very hard to predict whether changes to marketing standards, because of trading requirements, would be desirable. So, it is difficult.
So, there couldn't be provision in the Bill in that instance.
So, the provision in the Bill gives the Minister continuity of the powers that she already has for the agriculture Act. So the provision enables us to—
I was thinking about cross-border consistency.
So, the Bill will obviously apply to powers within Wales about what we do. The common frameworks that the Minister mentioned earlier, which follow the EU exit, that's critical really for this level of engagement. You heard some examples of the technical nature of many of these changes that have been made around poultry and water content.
Okay. So that consistency isn't a concern.
I think particularly in the context of trade deals, it's always important that we consider very carefully any changes that are coming through. Because I think, from a Government perspective, Ministers have been very clear that we don't want to lower standards in relation to animal health and welfare. So, I think they will require considerable scrutiny, as and when any changes are brought forward in relation to the trade deal.
Okay. And—. Sorry.
Sorry. I think what is important, because of the integrated nature of the food supply chain in the UK, it's really important that we have those powers.
Okay. I won't labour the point. I was just wondering if we might have stronger marketing standards in Wales than in England as a result of the Bill, and that might cause problems with cross-border carcass—
There is that possibility, but that's not our intention; our intention is to use the common frameworks approach to agree, because of the nature of food supply chains in Great Britain.
And I have to say, the frameworks have worked reasonably well since we've had them.
Yes. Okay. And what assessment have you made of the impact of the UK Internal Market Act 2020, particularly in respect of changing the marketing standards or carcass classifications in Wales?
So, I go back to what I was saying about it being difficult to predict. I think that work hasn't taken place, because until we know what regulations would need to be made really, I don't think we've had any assessment of the internal market Act.
I'll bring in Vikki Howells. Vikki.
Thank you, Chair. Moving on to forestry, Minister, the Bill amends the Forestry Act 1967, to give NRW new powers to add environmental conditions, and to amend, suspend or revoke tree-felling licences. How will you ensure that NRW uses these powers proportionately?
Thank you. So, these new powers are very important, to ensure that felling takes place in a way that protects our habitats and our species. We've issued guidance already to NRW; that sets out a very, very clear principle in relation to the powers being implemented in a proportionate way, as you suggest. I think they've already published a paper, which sets out the approach that they're going to take to this. The Bill will set out that NRW have to consult with the felling licence applicant when they come to set out the conditions and make provision for applicants to appeal that decision as well, if they feel they have to. I think that a potential for compensation is being made available as well.
Thank you. And we note that the powers to review and amend the thresholds in the environmental impact assessment for forestry regulations weren't included in the Bill, whereas the White Paper said that the intention was that they would be. So, could you explain that to us?
Yes. This is a very complex area of retained EU law. So, after due consideration, I considered that the Bill wouldn't be the most appropriate place to confer these powers. Obviously, since the Bill was drafted, you'll be aware that, I think it was just last week, or the week before, the UK Government announced a wish to—. The Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill has been introduced by the UK Government. That does contain powers to be conferred on devolved Ministers to amend, repeal and revoke retained EU law. So, I think it's fair to say that officials, and certainly, the lawyers, are obviously having to consider this Bill that the UK Government are now bringing forward.
I think it's probably a bit too early to comment on the implications of the UK Government Bill and what position we will take. Obviously, we would have to bring forward a legislative consent motion if that's the way that we decide to go at the appropriate time, so it's probably a little bit early at the moment.
Before we move on, Vikki, I think that Sam just wanted to come in on forestry. Sam.
Brilliant, thank you, Chair. Do you see a conflict in NRW issuing felling licences to themselves as landowners and forestry owners?
No. I think NRW have to have a foot in both camps on lots of different issues. So, no, I don’t see an issue with that.
Back to you, Vikki.
Thank you. Moving on to wildlife, Minister, and you'll know that I take a keen interest in the issues of snares and glue traps. To what extent did you consider a ban on the sale as well as the use of both snares and glue traps?
So, I think the most important route to removing glue traps as a means of pest control is to ban their use. A significant proportion of users are likely to be private pest controllers and those working at a local authority level, who we therefore fully expect would adhere to the ban. If you look at shock collars, for instance—we banned the use of shock collars, but we didn't, obviously, ban the sale or possession. So, I think this is absolutely right, going forward with the Bill.
In relation to snares, I think we all know that there are lots of unsophisticated snares, shall we say, that are able to trap animals and kill animals; they cause injury, they cause distress. So, the enforcement difficulties, when it came to sale, would be significant, because, obviously, some of the materials that are used to make snares and traps could be used for different purposes. So, I think it's right that we ban the use, but not the sale.
Okay, thank you. Some animal welfare organisations that I've been speaking to are concerned because they've noted that some of these snares have been rebranded as humane devices. Do you see that as an effort to try and get around the legislation? How would that be dealt with?
Well, if it's a criminal offence, it would be dealt with in the most appropriate way. But, as I said, I think we expect most people to adhere to the ban, because the people that would normally use them will be the people I described.
Maybe just a few more words on that. Humane cable restraints are code-compliant snares at the moment, and so, in the legislation, we've specifically sought to include those in the ban. So, I think we have covered that potential risk.
Thank you, that's very reassuring. And one final question, if I might, going back to the glue traps, because they weren't included in the White Paper: do you feel there's been sufficient consultation with the industry? You mentioned the use by professionals in particular.
Again, the evidence base that we have is that glue traps are inhumane, should not be in use, so the Bill does offer an appropriate vehicle to bring forward the necessary legislation to amend the current legislation, which I think goes back to about 1981, alongside the ban on the use of snares. I know officials have engaged with various stakeholders to gather evidence. That took place at the end of last year, beginning of this year. The pest control sector was very well represented when we brought forward that.
I should say, Chair, because I know Members will be interested, that we've had the summary of responses at the minute. I think we're just waiting for translation, but they'll then be put in the public domain, obviously, on the Welsh Government website. So, I'm sure that will help you with your deliberations.
Thank you, Vikki. I'll bring in Sam Kurtz. Sam.
Thank you, Chair. In the regulatory impact assessment, it states that the estimated costs are likely to be 'highly variable'—quote—as they will depend on the design of any future support scheme. Can you elaborate on the significance of this variability?
So, as you know, we're still designing the sustainable farming scheme. I mentioned we're in the second stage now of co-design, so I think it's impossible, at the moment, to bring forward a complete, quantitative assessment of the costs and the benefits. We're going to consult on the sustainable farming scheme at the end of next year, 2023, again, and that will, obviously, then include the economic assessment and the outcomes that we expect to deliver. But, at the moment, I go back to what I was saying—because I don’t know about the budget, for instance, it’s really hard to bring forward a substantive figure, but we know that there will be variability. But that will all be done as part of the final consultation.
And if the support scheme is more costly than expected, where do you think the additional money will be found and sought from?
Well, I go back to what I was saying before—this is a really difficult situation that we’re in. We would have to consider the final outcomes of the consultation for the scheme at the end of, well, we’d be going into 2024 then, before we made a decision on the implementation of the scheme and also the budget allocation. So, again, there are lots—. You’ll be aware in the SFS there are three levels, and I've had lots of questions—and I’m sure James will have done the same over the summer—about how much funding would we put into the universal, for instance, and how much into the optional, and how much into the collaborative. I would say that the majority would be in the universal, because that would be where most farmers would want to be part of the scheme. But until we know the future budget it’s incredibly difficult to put a figure on it and where it would come from. So, as everybody has to, we all have to live within our budget. I’m no different as a Minister, and the Welsh Government’s no different to anybody else. We obviously have some real concerns about our budget, but at the moment we know that the agricultural budget is only ring-fenced for the term of the UK parliamentary term; after that it's an unknown, so I can’t really answer that question, where the funding would come from.
So, would pillar 2 money be used for pillar 1? I know that’s not the terminology used going forward, but would there be an option for that?
We would have to look at all options. If I didn’t have a ring-fenced, and the Ministers that come after me, if we didn’t have a ring-fenced agricultural budget—. Because you’ve got to—. Well, I know you realise, but I’ve always said the funding landed in my budget from the European Union via the UK—in my budget, no scrutiny, straight out. That’s gone now. It’s public money. It has to be allocated in the way that we see best, so it would be a decision, obviously, for the Welsh Government, but we are reliant on the UK Government for our budget.
And finally on that, in terms of making the SFS as attractive as possible for farmers to sign up to it, given that some of the market prices are actually quite strong at the moment, even though there are fluctuations in the market—milk is over 50p per litre, grain prices are strong—how do you envisage enticing farmers into the sustainable farming scheme?
That’s a really good question, and I go back to an earlier answer about helping them now be prepared to go into the scheme. I think I came across one farmer at the—. I’m trying to think; I’m not sure if it was you, or—
No. I was thinking about the Royal Welsh Show. There was one farmer who gave one of my officials—I don’t think it was you, James—a really hard time, and then said, 'But I don’t want to be part of the scheme. I’ve not been part of the basic payment scheme and I don’t want to be part of this scheme.' And that’s absolutely fine—that’s their choice. But I would say the majority of farmers, obviously, want to be part of this scheme, and we want them to be part of this scheme, because that’s the way that we will monitor the environmental outcomes, for instance. Whilst a farmer—. As I say, if they don’t want to be part of the scheme, they don’t have to be. But I think it’s fair to say that the scheme has absolutely been designed with our stakeholders. I go back to the consultations we’ve had, and I appreciate you weren’t here, Sam, but that very first one, I’m sure you've had a look at it, ‘Brexit and our land’, and how that evolved, if you like, and that evolved in a way that was driven by stakeholders. I had a very large group of stakeholders right from I think it was the November of 2016, as we’d had the referendum in the June, who have really, really helped. We’ve got that very robust evidence base, I think, that we know what they want and what will make it attractive for them. So, a lot of them have said to me already—. I remember going on a farm in mid Wales where he was very proud of the carbon that he had stored on his farm, and he said, ‘I’m not being rewarded for that at the moment.' So, that’s a way of making it attractive. Perhaps that’s an example.
Okay. Thank you. Thank you, Chair.
Thanks, Sam. Before I bring in Sarah Murphy, I think Luke just wanted to come in on this particular issue. Luke.
Diolch, Cadeirydd. If I can just come back to Sam’s questions on costs and budget, and, of course, I recognise that Welsh Government’s budget only goes so far. I’m just wondering now—. You talk a lot about silo working and the need to get out of that habit of silo working within departments; I’m just wondering if there had been any scope, any discussions, potentially, around sharing potential areas of budget with other portfolio holders where there might be shared common goals and interests in a particular policy?
No, I wouldn't say—. Each Minister has a budget and you work within that. Obviously, if you have underspends, which don't happen very often, you can then, obviously, particularly towards the end of the year, share. For instance, when I was environment Minister and I was responsible for flood mitigation, you always had pipelines of flood defence schemes ready and you could swap that funding over. But I wouldn't say we've had detailed discussions about that, really, no.
I was just thinking in terms of the element if things end up being more costly, where there might be some shared goals, it would be useful for that sort of cross-portfolio work.
Yes. Yes, and certainly with the climate change Minister, we could perhaps do that.
I think one thing about the scheme is that it's a vehicle, if you like, for the delivery of all sorts of Welsh Government priorities, as long as they meet the purposes as we've outlined in the Bill and the SLM objectives. So, if there were in the future Welsh Government priorities that didn't fit within the Minister's portfolio that you could encourage and support farmers to undertake, you certainly could look at that as a vehicle.
So, now you'll have all my ministerial colleagues very worried that I'm going to be after their money. [Laughter.]
Good. Diolch, Cadeirydd.
Thank you, Luke. I'll now bring in Sarah Murphy. Sarah.
Thank you, Chair. So, Minister, in terms of the common frameworks, can you confirm the Welsh Government has complied with the relevant common frameworks in respect of the Bill? And if so, can you provide details of the processes taken and the decisions made under the frameworks, please?
So, I've already mentioned that the main common framework that we've used here is the agricultural support common framework. We've absolutely complied with the provisions of that. I did a presentation to my UK Government counterparts at the Royal Welsh Show and presented the proposals of the Bill there. As I say, we've not met as an IMG since the Royal Welsh Show, but we will be doing later—I think it's later this month—but, certainly, officials have continued engagement. There's a concordat. As I've already mentioned, I think the common frameworks worked well.
Obviously, there's a new UK Government now. We'll have to see if that continues, but, certainly, my experience of the common frameworks, which I think we—. Because we all signed up for them and we all worked really hard—. In every IMG, we would be looking sometimes at eight common frameworks each meeting, and then officials would go away and work on them. I think we've also, it's fair to say, in relation to the frameworks and the decisions that we took—. I go back to the significant consultation we've had with our stakeholders and with the sector in our consultations on the White Paper ahead of the agricultural Bill. So, I think a lot of people's views have been considered.
Thank you. And do your proposals comply with international obligations, such as World Trade Organization rules?
Yes, they do. Again, the lawyers are all over this, and it's really important to make sure that we comply with international obligations. The World Trade Organization rules are an area that—. I have a note here around the different boxes; we had to learn all about the boxes. Obviously, the UK Government made the regulations as a member state—member country, sorry—of the WTO, and that governs our financial responsibilities in relation to agricultural support. So, I go back to what I was just saying. We've agreed a concordat as four countries.
So, agricultural support is classified under three main categories, called boxes. So, you have green-box support—that's non-trade-distorting; there's no financial limit with that—blue-box support is also non-trade-distorting, but there's a more limited scope in relation to that, and that box, it qualifies that agricultural support must seek to limit production, but there's no financial limit. And then any agricultural support that does not achieve green- or blue-box criteria is classed as amber box, and, by definition, amber-box support is potentially trade distorting, and that does attract an annual financial limit. At the moment, that limit is £338 million. So, when officials have been designing the sustainable farming scheme, they have to understand that the criteria in relation to WTO classification are absolutely key, and they have to be very mindful of that.
Thank you. And what consideration has been given to human rights when drafting the Bill?
Again, we have to consider convention rights when we design the Bill. The lawyers tell me that we're absolutely confident that Bill clauses are convention rights compliant. They're very necessary, they pursue a legitimate aim and are proportionate. So, in designing the Bill, we're very, very mindful of the legislative competence test in relation to the Government of Wales Act 2006. The Presiding Officer has to agree to all of that before I can introduce it to the Senedd. Obviously, alongside the Bill, we've produced a full integrated impact assessment, and, again, that includes our assessment of the impact on the rights of the child, equality and human rights.
Just to drill down into that a little bit more, I attended the Commonwealth conference in Halifax this year, and the women's conference, and, obviously, there has been a big push now to do gender budgeting, for example. It's one of the lenses that we use on the Equality and Social Justice Committee to scrutinise the Welsh Government budget. But there's also been a push now that, when there are new Bills or trade agreements, to also look at that through a gender lens, through a gender impact assessment. So, is that one of the impact assessments that's been done, as well, and what were the findings, if so?
I don't think so, no.
Okay, thank you. And then, the Bill includes wide enabling powers for Welsh Ministers, with much in the detail left to regulations. So, to what extent did you consider including more detail on the face of the Bill?
So, I go back to what I was saying before about futureproofing. So, the Bill's been developed to support the agriculture sector both now and in the future. So, the use of regulation-making powers ensures that any support isn't overly prescriptive. I think it's really important that you keep that flexibility and you can adapt to it. We talked about the shock events that can happen and, indeed, have happened. So, I think it's really important that you keep that flexibility. We've used the sustainable land management framework as we've designed the Bill, and I think that does really provide us with assurance for the future. I don't know if James wants to add anything.
Yes, just perhaps to add that one of the purposes of publishing the proposed scheme before the Royal Welsh was to demonstrate really to the Senedd and Senedd Members how Ministers may intend to use the powers in the Bill in the future, in a good level of detail. So, we felt that the combination of publishing the scheme to demonstrate how Ministers may wish to use the powers of support in the future, alongside the provisions in the Bill, would give comfort, if you like, about how those powers could be used, both now and in the proposal for the next generation.
Thank you. And then, finally, under the Bill, Welsh Ministers may provide support for agriculture and ancillary activities. So, both these definitions, and it follows the scope of future support, could be amended by subordinate legislation. So, under what circumstances do you see that these definitions may need to be amended in future?
I think the definitions reflect the breadth of farming activities within Wales. So, there's both traditional farming and also modern farming. There's lots of innovation used at the moment in farming, and will continue to be so, so I think you have to look ahead to what the industry will do in the future. The power can be also used to ensure that the Bill and the powers and functions within it are able to adapt, and to reflect any changes, and we've discussed those changes in agricultural practices, because, obviously, that could lead to different land management and technological changes in the future. So, I go back to what I'm saying: it's really important, because this Bill is going to be here for, hopefully, at least two decades, that you futureproof the Bill, and that we can adapt and also reflect on any changes that are brought forward, particularly in technology, because, as we all know, that moves so quickly.
Thank you very much, Minister. Thank you, Chair.
Thank you, Sarah. Minister, can I just take you back to our earlier conversations? You were telling us what you would actually do in terms of using powers to support ancillary activities. How do you intend to use the powers to support third-party schemes—i.e. schemes not made by Welsh Ministers—and what type of third-party schemes would you intend to support under this Bill?
I don't think we've come up with a list, really, about third-party schemes, have we?
No. So, this is a power around futureproofing. There are some examples of things that we've got in mind that, in the future, Ministers may wish to support, as long as they contribute and best achieve the sustainable land management objectives. So, for example, we're aware of organisations such as Dŵr Cymru who work with groups of farmers up in the Brecon Beacons on a catchment scale to improve water quality. Now, we've not got a proposal and we're not supporting that directly at the moment, but that's the kind of thing that we had in mind here where a party was working actively with farmers to deliver things that contribute to the SLM objectives. It may be something that the Ministers would want to consider in the future in terms of adding some support to that.
I think, for me, any ancillary activities would have to add value to that farm business. But, again, I make it very clear that we don't want to divert the support that's there for the farmers away from the farmers.
Okay. Thank you very much. Sam.
In terms of farm diversification, obviously, direct support through the sustainable farming scheme will be for the measures set out, and there's further consultation on that, but 10, 15 years ago, through the common agricultural policy and EU directive, there was a drive in terms of farm diversification, renewables, renovating farm buildings into properties, et cetera. Where does the agriculture Bill allow support or, indeed, entice diversification to increase the profitability of farms?
So, as part of the scheme, I suppose there's a range of activities that could be done as we go forward with the co-design. James has very helpfully brought the sustainable farming scheme document that I didn't bring with me. I take the Bill everywhere, but he brings the scheme everywhere. So, I think, it's part of the actions that we're looking at.
Shall I, maybe, just give a couple of examples from the scheme? One area, obviously, that we propose as a scheme, if it was right for the farm and the farm business, would be around looking to incorporate more mixed farming practices in the scheme, because we feel that gives more resilience to the farm income. So, if they diversify, perhaps, away from one livestock product to many or into, indeed, other markets, then that's the type of thing we'd want to encourage in the scheme. It can also bring significant benefits from a biodiversity perspective as well. So, what we've tried to do in the scheme is give opportunities for farmers, if it was right for their farm business, to go above and beyond, if you like, the universal layer, and diversification is one of the aspects of that.
Okay. In terms of renewables then, there's been a big discussion at the moment, and this falls within both your portfolio, Minister, and, I would dare say, your colleague Julie's in climate change as well, around renewables on farms and the use of agricultural land for solar panels and the ability to use mixed farming land—sheep grazing is the main example—sheep grazing agricultural land with solar panels on it. That, I would say, is exactly what you've just described there, James—the use of a farming practice with an addition to complement each other and ensure that there's profitability. What's your take on renewables and farms and that sort of example?
I don’t think we would support renewable energy directly.
I think efficiency is probably what I would suggest and where there are actions that we could take to support farmers to be more energy efficient, and that may include producing renewable energy on farms. So, there is an optional action in the scheme, again, which is about seeking to achieve those outcomes of reducing farm emissions by being more efficient. So, again, it is the type of thing that we would consider as a scheme.
Again, it's right to say that it would be optional, so it would not be something that you'd suggest that would be right for all farms or farm businesses or, indeed, land in Wales, but we wanted to make sure that there was an opportunity—let's take precision farming as an example—to move into precision farming, because that would deliver multiple outcomes. It could reduce costs to the farm business but also deliver environmental benefit.
So, in terms of reducing farm emissions, where are they calculated? Is that at the farm gate itself? For a dairy farmer who is electricity dependent, is that from that element of it as well? Where's the calculation made?
So, as part of the scheme, we're proposing a sustainability review at the outset, and part of that sustainability review for each farm will be a carbon assessment, and that will be an on-farm carbon assessment. So, it won't be in terms of processes that happen beyond farm. And what we want to do here, really, is give the farmer an idea of what their current emissions profile looks like and, obviously, of course, what action they might be able to take to improve against that, and, again, for two reasons: to help them achieve net zero on their own farm and think about the actions they may take to achieve that, but also, again, to perhaps benchmark against other farmers and look at opportunities for reducing potential costs. So, we talked about fertilizer earlier, and what we want to do is use this carbon assessment for a farmer, for example, to look at other options for reducing their reliance on fertilizer, through planting nitrogen-fixing legumes, for example, which would be good for the soil.
Okay. And then, in terms of the carbon calculator, have you landed on which will be used?
I can see the Minister shaking her head.
No. We had a really helpful proposal from the farming unions—so, the Farmers Union of Wales, NFU Cymru—and young farmers to work with us on developing one that we could use for the scheme. So, the Minister agreed that we would take that forward in advance of the scheme, and we've started discussions with them around making sure that we have a common place to land for all farms in Wales.
Thank you, because there is some frustration within the industry at the moment that some schemes that farmers are signed up to, through their buyers—supermarkets, et cetera—are using different ones, and the data shows farmers doing similar things having very different outcomes, which, if we are talking about being data driven, which we are in the agriculture Bill, it would be handy to have one.
I'm pleased to hear that. Fab. Thank you, Chair. Thank you, both.
Do Members have any other questions at all? No. Therefore, our session has come to an end. Thank you, Minister. Thank you to you and your officials for being with us this morning. It's been very, very useful in starting our scrutiny of this Bill. So, thank you very much. A copy of today's transcript, of course, will be sent to you in due course. If there are any issues with that, then please let us know. Thank you.
Okay. Thank you very much.
bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(vi).
that the committee resolves to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(vi).
Cynigiwyd y cynnig.
Fe symudwn ni ymlaen, felly, i eitem 4 ar ein hagenda, a dwi’n cynnig, yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42, fod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o'r cyfarfod. A yw Aelodau'n fodlon? Ydyn, dwi'n gweld bod Aelodau yn fodlon. Felly, derbynnir y cynnig ac fe symudwn ni ymlaen nawr i'n sesiwn breifat ni.
We'll move on, therefore, to item 4 on our agenda. I move, in accordance with Standing Order 17.42, that the committee resolves to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting. Are Members content? Yes, I see that Members are. So, the motion has been agreed, and we'll move now to our private session.
Derbyniwyd y cynnig.
Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 11:11.
The public part of the meeting ended at 11:11.