AS ENVIRONMENT secretary Michael Gove signalled a move away from “unjust and inefficient” subsidies paid through the European Union, NFU Cymru welcomed his commitment to a national food policy and recognition that food production is ‘at the heart of all farming businesses’.

The union also welcomed a commitment for Defra to champion high quality domestic food at home and abroad.

In his speech to the Oxford Farming Conference, Mr Gove outlined how he wants to see taxpayers’ money going in future years to environmental protection, increasing public access to the countryside, and on technology, skills, infrastructure, and supporting rural communities.

The Government has agreed to maintain current farming subsidies, which are worth about £3 billion to UK landowners each year and most of which are linked to the amount of land that is farmed, until 2022.

The environment secretary said he envisaged farm payments continuing for five years from 2019.

NFU Cymru President Stephen James said that the commitment shown in Michael Gove’s speech was a positive signal for the farming industry, and he looked forward to seeing the details on this.

Mr James added that Welsh farming had a unique role in producing a safe, affordable and high quality supply of food as well as caring for 80 per cent of the Welsh countryside.

"I was pleased to hear of the Secretary of State’s commitment to invest in technology, skills and rural resilience - all of which he says are public goods.

"What is also clear is Michael Gove’s commitment to delivering benefits for the environment, something that farmers already advocate and perform highly on. Mr Gove was absolutely right to recognise the vital contribution that uplands farmers have in maintaining their iconic landscape.

"Without the productive, resilient and profitable farm businesses across the country, we will not have the people to look after the natural environment.

“A transition period that allows time to prepare properly for the introduction of a new agricultural policy is also is welcome, during which an assessment can be made of the impact of Brexit on UK farming – on trade in the raw ingredients farmers produce, on farm business’ access to a competent and reliable workforce, and on the regulatory environment in which they operate.

Meanwhile the Country Landowners’ Association in Wales broadly welcomed the commitments but called for a Welsh solution to the issues raised.

“The door’s open for the Welsh Government to set-out its own vision following the speech,” said Rebecca Williams, director of CLA Cymru.

“In his speech Mr Gove established key principles for England. This prompts questions about how the critical farming sector should be sustained and realise its growth potential in Wales.

“The Welsh solution must take account of the specific qualities and needs of farming and land management in Wales.

“Exiting the European Union gives us a once-in-a-generation opportunity to build a new food and land use policy in Wales that is significantly better than the CAP,” she said.