The Agriculture (Wales) Bill is momentous - for the Senedd and for Wales.
For the first time the Senedd is considering legislation to introduce a ‘made in Wales’ agricultural policy. It has implications for Welsh farmers, the environment and Wales’ economy and culture.
Anticipated since the outcome of the 2016 EU referendum, this Bill arrives in the midst of several challenges: the climate and nature emergencies, inflation, rise in the cost of living, the Ukraine war, food shortages and trade disruption.
So getting land management in Wales right, is crucial. Given agricultural land covers around 90% of Welsh land, it’s high stakes for the Senedd.
Our Bill Summary provides detail on the Bill and the Senedd committees’ scrutiny during Stage 1, ahead of the Plenary debate on 7 February 2022.
Our infographic below provides a tool to understand what the Bill does.
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Section 1 establishes four Sustainable Land Management (SLM) objectives:
- to produce food and other goods in a sustainable manner;
- to mitigate and adapt to climate change;
- to maintain and enhance the resilience of ecosystems and the benefits they provide; and
- to conserve and enhance the countryside and cultural resources and promote public access to and engagement with them, and to sustain the Welsh language and promote and facilitate its use.
Section 2 places a duty on the Welsh Ministers to exercise certain functions relating to “agriculture” and “ancillary activities” (defined in sections 48 and 49, respectively) in the way they consider best contributes to achieving the SLM objectives.
Section 3 provides for limited exceptions to the section 2 duty.
Section 4 requires the Welsh Ministers to prepare, publish and lay a statement before Senedd Cymru setting out indicators and targets to measure progress towards achieving the SLM objectives.
Section 5 sets out the steps that must be undertaken in preparing or revising indicators and targets.
Section 6 requires the Welsh Ministers to prepare and publish SLM reports and details the content and timings of those reports. The SLM reports are to monitor progress towards achieving SLM objectives using the indicators and targets.
Section 7 sets out the reports, policies and other matters to which the Welsh Ministers must have regard in preparing the SLM reports.
Section 8 confers a power on the Welsh Ministers to provide support for, or in connection with, agriculture and ancillary activities that take place in Wales. It sets out a non-exhaustive list of ‘purposes’ for which such support may be provided, which are amendable by regulation. The purposes aim to support the achievement of the SLM objectives. Support may be provided by way of a scheme, or by other means.
Section 9 provides further detail on the support which may be given under section 8. It sets out that support may be provided financially or otherwise, and may be provided to a person or organisation who has established or operates a “third party scheme” (i.e. a scheme not made by the Welsh Ministers).
Section 10 confers a power on the Welsh Ministers to make regulations about the publication of certain information in connection with any support provided under section 8. For example, the recipient of any support provided.
Section 11 provides the Welsh Ministers with regulation making powers to check whether eligibility criteria for support under section 8 are met and the consequences where they are not. It provides for enforcing compliance and monitoring the extent to which the purposes of support have been achieved, and the investigation of suspected offences.
Section 12 places a duty on the Welsh Ministers to prepare an annual report about the financial and non-financial support provided under section 8 during each financial year.
Section 13 requires the Welsh Ministers to produce an Impact Report every five years to assess the impact and effectiveness of support provided under section 8.
Section 14 requires the Welsh Ministers to have regard to certain matters during the preparation of an Impact Report.
Section 15 provides the Welsh Ministers with the power by regulations to modify legislation governing the Basic Payment Scheme (of the Common Agricultural Policy) in relation to Wales.
Section 16 provides the Welsh Ministers with the power by regulations to modify legislation relating to the financing, management and monitoring of the Common Agricultural Policy in relation to Wales.
Section 17 provides the Welsh Ministers with the power by regulations to modify legislation relating to apiculture (beekeeping) in relation to Wales.
Section 18 provides the Welsh Ministers with the power by regulations to modify legislation relating to support for rural development (of the Common Agricultural Policy) in relation to Wales.
Section 19 provides that nothing in this Chapter affects powers to modify the same subject areas (i.e. the Basic Payment Scheme etc.) under separate legislation.
Section 20 makes provision for circumstances in which the Welsh Ministers may make an “exceptional market conditions” declaration if, generally there is a severe disturbance in agricultural markets which has, or is likely to have, a significant adverse effect on the prices achievable for Welsh agricultural products.
Section 21 specifies the powers available to Welsh Ministers while an exceptional market conditions declaration has effect. This may include financial support to agricultural producers in Wales whose incomes have been, are being, or are likely to be adversely affected by the declared exceptional market conditions.
Section 22 confers powers on the Welsh Ministers to modify retained direct EU legislation relating to public market intervention or aid for private storage, so far as it has effect in relation to Wales. ‘Public market intervention’ is the purchasing, storing and reselling of certain goods once prices have risen and ‘private storage aid’ is paying producers to store products for an agreed period to remove them from the market.
Section 23 amends section 19A of the Agricultural Holdings Act 1986. The effect of this amendment is to confer a regulation making power on Welsh Ministers to provide agricultural tenants with a route to resolve disputes with landlords about restrictive clauses in their tenancy agreements, which may prevent them from accessing financial assistance provided under this Bill.
Section 24 confers power on the Welsh Ministers to require those in, or closely connected with an “agri-food supply chain” to provide information about their activities, connected with that supply chain.
Section 25 defines “agri-food supply chain” and persons “in” and “closely connected” with an agri-food supply chain.
Section 26 confers power on the Welsh Ministers to require a person who carries on a “relevant activity” (and is not “in” or “closely connected” with an agri-food supply chain) to provide information about matters connected with that activity.
Section 27 defines “relevant activity” for the purposes of this Chapter.
Section 28 specifies that information requirements imposed under sections 24 and 26 must specify the purposes for which such information may be processed. The list of purposes are provided.
Section 29 requires the Welsh Ministers to publish a draft of the requirement before imposing it.
Section 30 stipulates that information provided in response to a requirement may be processed only for the purposes specified in the requirement.
Section 31 confers power on the Welsh Ministers to make regulations providing for enforcement of a requirement imposed under section 24 or 26. The regulations may make provision about penalties for non-compliance and appeals.
Section 32 confers powers on the Welsh Ministers to make regulations prescribing standards with which certain agricultural products must conform when marketed in Wales. The relevant products are listed in Schedule 1.
Section 33 confers powers on the Welsh Ministers to make regulations about the classification, identification and presentation of certain carcasses by slaughterhouses in Wales.
Section 34 is an overview provision which explains how this part of the Bill amends Part 2 of the Forestry Act 1967 in relation to Wales.
Section 35 amends section 10 of the Forestry Act 1967 to enable the Natural Resources Body for Wales (“NRW”), as the “appropriate forestry authority” for Wales, to impose conditions on the granting of a tree felling licence if it appears to NRW that it would be expedient to do so for the purpose of (i) conserving or enhancing natural beauty, or (ii) conserving flora, fauna, geological or physiographical features, or natural habitats.
Section 36 inserts a new subsection (3A) into section 10 of the Forestry Act 1967 to enable NRW and the holder of a licence granted under that section to mutually agree (at any time) to amend the felling licence.
Section 37 inserts two new sections into the Forestry Act 1967 to enable NRW to unilaterally vary, suspend or revoke a tree felling licence in circumstances where there has a breach of licence conditions, and circumstances where there has been no breach (new sections 24C and 24D, respectively).
Section 38 inserts a new section 24E into the Forestry Act 1967 to provide for compensation to be payable in some circumstances following the receipt of a notice given under section 24C or 24D.
Section 39 inserts new subsections into section 25 of the Forestry Act 1967, which provide for appeals to be brought against decisions taken to suspend, amend or revoke licences under new sections 24C and 24D.
Section 40 amends section 17 of the Forestry Act 1967 to provide that the penalty for offences committed in respect of land in Wales is an unlimited fine.
Section 41 makes several consequential amendments to the Forestry Act 1967. These amendments are a result of changes made to that Act by sections 35 to 39 of the Bill.
Section 42 is an overview provision which sets out the purposes for which this Part of the Bill amends the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (the “1981 Act”).
Section 43 amends section 11(1) of the 1981 Act to make it an offence to:
- set a snare or other cable restraint in position in Wales, if the snare or restraint is of a type, and is placed, so likely to cause injury to any wild animal;
- use a snare or other cable restraint in Wales for the purpose of killing or taking any wild animal;
- set a glue trap in position in Wales, if the trap is of a type, and is placed, so as to be likely to catch any (non-human) vertebrate animal; and
- use a glue trap in Wales for the purpose of killing any or taking any (non-human) vertebrate animal.
Section 44 amends section 11(2) of the 1981 Act to modify the prohibitions on setting any trap or snare, or any electrical device for killing or stunning, or any poisonous, poisoned or stupefying substance. The effect is that the prohibitions will apply where their use is “likely” to cause injury to a wild animal of the type specified (rather than where the use is “calculated to cause” injury to a wild animal of that type).
Section 45 makes a series of consequential amendments to the 1981 Act. These amendments are connected to the changes made to that Act by sections 43 and 44 of the Bill.
Section 46 provides powers for the Welsh Ministers to make such supplemental, consequential or transitional provision as necessary to give full effect to any provision of the Bill.
Section 47 makes general provision about regulations made under the Bill, and sets out the applicable Senedd procedure for such regulations.
Section 48 defines “agriculture” for the purposes of the Bill.
Section 49 defines “ancillary activities” for the purposes of the Bill.
Section 50 confers power on the Welsh Ministers to amend the definitions of “agriculture” and “ancillary activity” by regulations, subject to the affirmative resolution procedure.
Section 51 is an interpretation provision which defines further words and terms used in the Bill.
Section 52 gives effect to Schedules 2 and 3 which contain a series of consequential amendments and repeals.
Section 53 sets out when each provisions of the Bill comes into force.
Section 54 provides that the short title of the Bill is the “Agriculture (Wales) Act 2023”.
Schedule 1 (introduced by section 32) makes provision about agricultural products which are relevant to the marketing standards provisions in the Bill.
Schedule 2 (introduced by section 52) makes minor and consequential amendments relating to Parts 1-3 of the Bill.
Schedule 3 (also introduced by section 52) makes consequential amendments to Regulation (EU) No 1308/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 December 2013 establishing a common organisation of the markets in agricultural products (the “CMO Regulation”).
Article by Katy Orford and Elfyn Henderson, Senedd Research, Welsh Parliament