Agriculture Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:04 pm on 10th October 2018.

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Photo of Ben Lake Ben Lake Plaid Cymru, Ceredigion 4:04 pm, 10th October 2018

Agriculture’s economic contribution to rural areas has already been emphasised this afternoon. It applies to Wales, and in particular Ceredigion, just as much as the other countries of the UK.

The structure of the Welsh agricultural industry is, at least for the time being, rooted in the family farm. In Wales, the average size of holdings is 48 hectares, which is significantly less than that in the UK, and the industry’s share of total employment in Wales is three times the UK average. It is important to note that, as a result, agriculture is of not only economic importance, but cultural importance, sustaining the Welsh language and the fabric of rural life.

I do not intend to go into detail about what a new agricultural policy for Wales should look like or how it should work, for such matters are rightly beyond the scope of the Bill and will be determined in the Senedd in Cardiff. While policy decisions relating to the future of Welsh agriculture are devolved, their funding ultimately is not, so I wish to concentrate my remarks on that.

Much has been said in this debate about the importance of direct payments, and in particular ensuring the viability of the agricultural sector. The industry in Wales is heavily dependent on the support it receives through the CAP. In 2017, for example, payments represented 107% of the total income from farming, compared with 68% in Northern Ireland and 52% in England. Any changes to the overall level of funding for UK agriculture will therefore have a particular impact in Wales, and as farmers manage around 80% of land in Wales, ensuring their viability is essential if other outcomes of agricultural policy are to be realised.