FUW president Ian Rickman has spoken of a 'momentous' year ahead in his New Year message to the industry.

"2024 promises to be a momentous year not just for agriculture in Wales, as we engage with the final Sustainable Farming Scheme consultation, but also across the political realm with a a General Election on the horizon and we will also see a new First Minister with Welsh Labour about to embark upon a leadership election following the decision by Mark Drakeford to announce his retirement," he said.

"For Wales and farming there are big issues at stake. At the front of our minds is the final Sustainable Farming Scheme (SFS) consultation. The SFS is going to form the mechanism through which farmers will receive support in Wales from 2025 onwards.

"I urge members to engage fully with us on this as a matter of urgency. It is the most important change to Welsh agricultural policy since the genesis of the Common Agricultural Policy in 1962 and we as a union know that we can’t afford to get this wrong."

He added that any future payment scheme based on environmental and public goods outcomes must protect family farms, support rural communities and maintain employment in rural Wales.

Wales Farmer: FUW president Ian RickmanFUW president Ian Rickman

"There might be some among us who can manage without that direct support, but looking at the Welsh Farm Business Survey, the majority of us rely on such support for the survival of our farm business. It would be folly to suggest that as a sector we can manage and thrive without any support.

"Securing funding for the sector therefore remains an essential element of our focus for this coming year. Whilst we recognise the challenges that the Welsh Government must contend with, the entire Departmental Rural Affairs Budget of £482 million represents just 2% of the Welsh Government Budget.

"It is vitally important that as a minimum, this budget is maintained to ensure that our obligations and ambitions in relation to food, nature and climate are achieved.

"If you have read our ‘The role of farm support in Wales’ livestock supply chains’ report, it is clear what would need to change if the direct support payments were to be reduced significantly.

"The resulting figures make for very uncomfortable reading and should serve as a warning to those who think that the industry can continue to produce food whilst also delivering on the many other key asks made of agriculture by the Government."

With political changes on the horizon in Wales and the UK, he said it was more important than ever for politicians and policy makers to fully understand the economic role played by farm support within the context of our rural economy.

"Let me be absolutely clear - any cuts, however large, will have a knock on effect on many non-farming businesses here in Wales with our modelled worst case scenario showing that some non-farming business sectors would lose tens of millions in income.

"This coming year will no doubt bring with it many challenges but we will be there for our members, striving to ensure we have thriving, sustainable, family farms in Wales for generations to come."