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The Agriculture (Wales) Bill was introduced on 26 September 2022. It is significant as this is the first time that the Senedd has considered legislation to introduce a ‘made in Wales’ agricultural policy.
It has implications for Welsh farmers, the environment and the economy and culture of Wales.
This blog outlines why the Bill is needed, and its implications for the Welsh language.
Why is the Agriculture (Wales) Bill needed?
The Welsh Government introduced this Bill because the United Kingdom, and Wales too therefore, had left the European Union. As stated by Lesley Griffiths, Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs in 2020:
“The United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union has had far-reaching consequences for us all. For Wales, some of the most visible consequences may arise from changes to farming and farm support.”
This legislation is particularly important because 90 per cent of Welsh land is agricultural land.
What is the aim of the Bill?
The Bill has several aims, including producing food in a sustainable way, responding to the climate emergency and enhancing ecosystems and the Welsh countryside. The Bill introduces four sustainable land management objectives. The fourth pays attention to the Welsh language:
“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” (Part 1, Section 1 (5)).
What is the Welsh Language Commissioner’s opinion?
The Commissioner welcomed the Government’s decision to include the Welsh language in the objectives. The agricultural industry is the employment sector with the highest proportion of Welsh speakers. Agricultural businesses maintain many rural communities where Welsh is a natural, everyday language. It is vital, therefore, to maintain the agricultural community and promote the Welsh language within it.
The Commissioner has responded to a number of consultations about agriculture and you can read more about them by clicking on the links in the ‘Further reading’ section below. We have been consistent in our opinion that Welsh language communities need to be central to the legislation. We have stressed the importance of the agricultural sector to the viability of the Welsh language, and the need to plan purposefully to promote the Welsh language, collect data about the Welsh language and monitor policy impact. We have also highlighted the value of the Welsh language as a unique marketing tool that can increase market potential by making a product stand out, reinforcing the local origin of a product and appearing as a sign of quality.
In our response to the Economy, Trade and Rural Affairs Committee’s consultation on the Agriculture (Wales) Bill in 2022, we asked that the Bill make it compulsory to do the following:
- set specific indicators and targets for the Welsh language, which will dovetail with the objectives of the Cymraeg 2050 strategy
- collect data on the Welsh language so that the situation of the language in the agricultural sector can be analysed
- include the Welsh language in the list of purposes for which Welsh Ministers are empowered to provide support.
We have made the same request in a letter to the Minister for Rural Affairs and North Wales, and Trefnydd, Lesley Griffiths.
The Committee quoted our evidence and the three requests above in its report on the consultation, making a specific recommendation to bring forward amendments in relation to the Welsh language:
“The Minister should bring forward amendments to the Bill to strengthen its provisions for sustaining and promoting the Welsh language: this may include by adding it to the list of purposes in section 8, and committing to include specific indicators and targets in order to better measure outcomes.” (Recommendation 11)
We are glad that the Committee noted our comments and announced:
“Protecting and promoting the Welsh language should be explicit throughout this Bill, and the Committee wants to see this clearly woven through the legislation.” (100)
We have corresponded with the Minister again following this and we will continue to scrutinise the Bill during its passage through the Senedd.
Article by the Senedd Research service: Agriculture (Wales) Bill - Bill Summary (senedd.wales)
Welsh Government consultations
- Agriculture (Wales) Bill | GOV.WALES (2020-21)
- Sustainable Farming Scheme: outline proposals for 2025 | GOV.WALES (2022)
- Agriculture (Wales) White Paper (welshlanguagecommissioner.wales) (available in Welsh only)
- Sustainable Farming Scheme: Outline Proposals for 2025 (welshlanguagecommissioner.wales)
Economy, Trade and Rural Affairs Committee’s consultation on the Agriculture (Wales) Bill (2022)
Consultation display (senedd.wales)
Commissioner’s response to the Committee’s consultation
Response to the Economy, Trade and Rural Affairs Committee’s consultation on the Agriculture (Wales) Bill (welshlanguagecommissioner.wales)
Economy, Trade and Rural Affairs Committee’s report on the Agriculture (Wales) Bill (2023)
Agriculture (Wales) Bill: Committee Stage 1 Report (senedd.wales)