The future of the farming sector and how it can develop, was hotly debated at the Farmers’ Union of Wales Ceredigion county branch conference last week at Lampeter Rugby Club.

Keynote speakers on the night were Gwyn Howells, CEO of Hybu Cig Cymru, Dr Nerys Llewelyn Jones from Agri Advisors Solicitors, Dr William Stiles from Ibers and Gwyn Jones AHDB dairy board chair.

Gwyn Jones told members that we must face and recognise that Brexit is the biggest challenge in agriculture, referring to the recent AHDB report 'The Horizon', which highlights the results of detailed modelling of different Brexit scenarios.

The document highlights the risks faced if Britain leaves the EU without easy, tariff-free access to the single market, with less favoured area livestock farm incomes particularly hard hit, falling to negative figures in the worst case scenario. Lowland livestock farms fare little better, with incomes falling to less than £4,000 in two of the three scenarios looked at, and across all UK farm types, incomes more than halve under an ‘extreme’ Brexit scenario.

He told members that given the information AHDB believe that all sectors will need to reform – it's that radical.

Speaking about Brexit from HCC’s perspective, Gwyn Howells told members that Brexit is a challenge and the problem is that we don't know what is going to happen. This, he said, is a concern as most of our produce goes to Europe. Labour availability, he added, is also an issue which is hitting us today.

Mr Howells further said that HCC are working hard to develop a market with other countries so that we are ready when Brexit happens. He stressed that as an industry we have to be positive about our fantastic product, be confident as a nation and believe in the product we have to market.

Dr Nerys Llewelyn Jones emphasised that the agri industry need a long term plan and that we need to work together as farmers. 60 per cent of land is sold to investment buyers and the price of land is not going to drop. Dr Llewelyn Jones noted that we need to be positive and drive through the mist.

Members then heard from Dr William Stiles, who stressed the need to speed up how we are going to manage the environmental impact and manage the landscape. Small changes on the farm will amount to quite a large carbon saving overall, he said. Members further heard about the importance of planting trees and opportunities from recycling slurry.

“The points raised by the speakers and the question and answer session which followed certainly provided all of us with much food for thought. If we take just one thing away from the evening, it has to be that change must be embraced if we are to succeed as an industry,” added Mared Jones.