NFU Cymru has emphasised the value of the Welsh farming industry in the wake of controversial comments made by Wales’ First Minister.
Mark Drakeford said that farmers must to “do things that taxpayers are willing to invest in” to receive subsidies in the future.
As part of the Welsh government’s recently announced agricultural policy, producers must cover at least 10% of their land with trees
Mr Drakeford told the BBC: “If you wish to take advantage of that money, if you want to have help from the Welsh taxpayer, then you will have to find a way of bringing yourself within the scheme that allows me, as the first minister, to justify to Bangladeshi taxi drivers in Riverside, where I live, why they should pay their taxes in order to support farmers in Wales.”
But NFU Cymru said Welsh farming already delivered “multiple benefits”, such as feeding the nation during the Covid-19 pandemic and the current impact of rising inflation.
Public funds provided to Welsh agriculture should be viewed as an investment, the union said, adding that for less than 2% of the overall Welsh government budget, support for farming enables farmers to deliver a range of services.
For example, Welsh farmers manage 80% of the land in Wales, including landscapes that attract millions of tourists every year, NFU Cymru explained.
And the sector underpins the £8 billion Welsh food and drink industry, which is Wales’ largest employer with over 230,000 people linked to roles in the sector.
NFU Cymru President Aled Jones said: “It is extremely important that the public and governments recognise the multiple benefits delivered by Welsh farming.
“For generations farmers across Wales have carried out work on-farm that delivers widespread benefits, not least to Wales’ environment.
“Farmers across Wales undertake a huge amount of work to maintain and enhance our iconic Welsh landscapes, encourage wildlife and reduce our climate impacts.”
And the union’s Deputy President, Abi Reader said Welsh farmers protected the environment, boosted biodiversity and provided habitats for nature.
“Let’s never forget that farmers are the foundation of the rural economy as they redistribute their income in their local community and that we are champions of Welsh language, culture and heritage.
“Every £1 of public money invested in agriculture delivers a return of over £7 to the economy of Wales,” she explained.
Wales’ Shadow Rural Affairs Minister, Samuel Kurtz criticised Mr Drakeford’s comments as showing “a level of disregard for our farming industry”.
“Not only is agriculture a pillar of the Welsh economy, it is the lifeblood of communities up and down the country, playing a central role in our culture and preserving the Welsh language,” he said.