Y Pwyllgor Newid Hinsawdd, Amgylchedd a Materion Gwledig - Y Bumed Senedd
Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee - Fifth Senedd28/01/2021
Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol
Committee Members in Attendance
|Janet Finch-Saunders MS|
|Jenny Rathbone MS|
|Llyr Gruffydd MS|
|Mike Hedges MS||Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor|
|Neil Hamilton MS|
Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol
Others in Attendance
|Aled Jones||Dirprwy Lywydd, NFU Cymru|
|Deputy President, NFU Cymru|
|Catherine McLaughlin||Cadeirydd, Cynghrair Defnydd Cyfrifol o Feddyginiaeth mewn Amaethyddiaeth|
|Chair, Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture Alliance|
|Dr Nick Fenwick||Pennaeth Polisi, Undeb Amaethwyr Cymru|
|Head of Policy, Farmers Union of Wales|
|Dr Tim Peppin||Aelod o'r Grŵp Gorchwyl a Gorffen Adferiad Gwyrdd (Cymdeithas Llywodraeth Leol Cymru)|
|Green Recovery Task and Finish Group Member (Welsh Local Government Association)|
|Peter Davies||Aelod o'r Grŵp Gorchwyl a Gorffen Adferiad Gwyrdd (Cyngor Gweithredu Gwirfoddol Cymru)|
|Green Recovery Task and Finish Group Member (Wales Council for Voluntary Action)|
|Sir David Henshaw||Cadeirydd y Grŵp Gorchwyl a Gorffen Adferiad Gwyrdd (Cyfoeth Naturiol Cymru)|
|Chair of the Green Recovery Task and Finish Group (Natural Resources Wales)|
|Sue Pritchard||Aelod o'r Grŵp Gorchwyl a Gorffen Adferiad Gwyrdd (Y Comisiwn Bwyd, Ffermio a Chefn Gwlad)|
|Green Recovery Task and Finish Group Member (Food, Farming and Countryside Commission)|
Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol
Senedd Officials in Attendance
|Andrea Storer||Dirprwy Glerc|
|Rhiannon Lewis||Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol|
Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Lle mae cyfranwyr wedi darparu cywiriadau i’w tystiolaeth, nodir y rheini yn y trawsgrifiad.
The proceedings are reported in the language in which they were spoken in the committee. In addition, a transcription of the simultaneous interpretation is included. Where contributors have supplied corrections to their evidence, these are noted in the transcript.
Cyfarfu'r pwyllgor drwy gynhadledd fideo.
Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 13:44.
The committee met by video-conference.
The meeting began at 13:44.
My phone now tells me it's 1.45 p.m., so can I welcome Members to the meeting? The meeting is bilingual, and simultaneous translation from Welsh to English is available. If people are using translation, there's a bit of a gap before the translation comes through before the next speaker comes on. I've told you you don't need to operate the microphones. If for any reason I drop out, Jenny Rathbone will take over. We've had apologies from Joyce Watson, and I'll ask Members if they've got any declarations of interest? There are none.
Can I welcome Sir David Henshaw, chair, green recovery task and finish group; Peter Davies, green recovery task and finish group; Tim Peppin, green recovery task and finish group; and Sue Pritchard, green recovery task and finish group? Croeso. Welcome. If you're happy for us to move straight to questions, I will ask the first one. Can you outline the scope of the green recovery task and finish group, specifically its strategic aim or aims?
Well, thank you, Chair. It's good to be here in front of you today. As you probably saw from the report and, if you like, the mandate letter from the Minister, the issue really was to try and start focusing on the green recovery that will accelerate our transition to a low-carbon economy, and a healthier and more equal nation. Equally, there was a second bit of this job, which is working with the environmental non-governmental organisations to see how we can develop a more consolidated response to the green recovery, and particularly looking at how we might support them short term to survive, and then work with them more collectively and cohesively in the future. So, that was the mandate given to us by the Minister, and from there, we worked forward with looking at actually how we would discharge that mandate going forward. I can talk about the priorities, et cetera, but that, broadly, is where the mandate come from, ministerially, from Lesley Griffiths.
That leads us nicely to Jenny Rathbone.
Thanks very much, and thank you very much for your blessedly short and clear report. It really is excellent. I just wondered if you could focus on the six practical actions that you're recommending that the Government takes, and the emphasis you're putting on the fact that all six of these elements have got to be taken together, not just one in isolation. I wondered if you could just tell us a little bit more about that.
Well, clearly, everything is connected to everything else on this agenda, and in trying to create a narrative around this, we were very much focused on the six areas that are laid out in the report, which, obviously, are interdependent, but in terms of creating a means of handling the report, essentially focused on the nature-based solutions and actually how we might take tangible action in the way we live our lives—using tourism, housing, skills, apprenticeships and the rest of it. So, in trying to bring this report together, we were concerned that this wouldn't just be another report sitting on the shelf with people noting it. We were determined, as a group of people, we wanted to make sure that we could show some, if you like, demonstrator projects that could be rallied around and show the examples of what you could do in the short term, and also proxies for longer term action. So, as you see in the report, there are some very short-term projects and fixes, and equally there are some more longer term considerations. As you probably saw from the publication yesterday of 'The State of Natural Resources Report' and the up-coming further details coming in different sections of the SoNaRR, we are facing a huge challenge here.
I could waffle on for hours about this in terms of, actually, how connected everything is, but what's fundamental is that we are facing an existential crisis here. It is behoven on all of us, not just waiting for Government to act, but it's actually, 'How can we mobilise people, communities and places to start taking this agenda very seriously?', as well as the big strategic levers that will have to be pulled by Government and other institutions.
Okay. I suppose, what I'd like to hear a little bit more on is how we're going to tackle unsustainable levels of production and consumption, and coming up with more sustainable alternatives, as well as how we're going to engage with those communities that are most vulnerable and are being hardest hit by the pandemic. I don't know if you or one of your colleagues would like to talk just a little bit more—
[Inaudible.]—is by example, and if you look at food—and I'll bring Sue in if I can, from the point of view of the food and farming commission—but, clearly, there's macro action that will have to be taken by Government and, if you like, the private sector, in terms of how we actually structure our economy and around how we produce food, how we deliver food, how we consume food and buy it, et cetera. We are very keen—and Sue's interest in this and presence here is an example of that—in actually producing that very different approach to the food we grow and the food we consume. Sue, would you like to just explain how we took that theme forward?
Sure, and I want to say to start that we were enormously impressed by the volume and scope of the ideas that came forward, and I think it illustrates one response to your question there, that people want to do things. Sir David talked about us mobilising leadership around these big and critical issues, but, actually, people want to do things and, indeed, are already doing things. So, the picture that we were able to capture and share with you is of a country that feels really motivated to play its part in taking action on these huge, important and critical issues. So, that's enormously encouraging.
Lots of ideas came through, which certainly excited me, around how we shift the food system, the whole food system, from community-supported agriculture schemes, people looking to acquire and develop land to grow healthy fruit and vegetables, closer to those places that really need it, particularly those communities that don't necessarily have good access to healthy fruit and vegetables, through to urban growing schemes, through to bigger nature recovery projects in some of the rural communities that we live in. So, the important takeaway for us was that, in asking the question, in asking for ideas, people came forth with hundreds, hundreds of really good ideas, and I guess it's our job now, together, to help make those happen, to provide the right conditions to help those ideas really take off.
Okay. Well, sticking with food, other Members of the committee will be aware that I have been raising this endlessly, but since the new year, there's been a really significant rise in prices, which is really scary when we think about how that impacts on people who are already living in food poverty. So, how quickly do you think we can really gear up the system to respond to that? Because people are already unable to afford what they could afford beforehand.
Now, if I'm honest, I think is somewhat outside of the scope of the green recovery taskforce; these are not questions that we particularly spend a lot of time talking about. But, obviously, in my work, the Food, Farming and Countryside Commission, we are looking very closely at issues of affordability and access to healthy, nutritious fruit and vegetables. The reasons for those price hikes are many: some of those are to do with exiting the European Union; some of those are to do with the impacts of floods and other unprecedented weather events earlier in the year driving up commodity prices. So, there's a whole range of reasons why food prices have gone up.
Action on food insecurity and food poverty has to be seen in the round. And it's not, I think, a long-term solution to try and make food ever cheaper. At the moment, very often cheap food is simply cheap because the cost of producing cheap food is passed off elsewhere in the system, either in the environment or in impacts on health and well-being. So, we need to think of more creative solutions. One of the ideas that we've been exploring in the commission has been how to provide cash benefits to people in food security, to use those to buy food directly from local producers, local farmers and growers who are producing healthy fruit, veg, meat and dairy from sustainable processes directly. So, just narrow down the supply chain to make sure that people can get really good-quality fruit, veg, but directly from local producers. So, it creates a virtuous circle, a virtuous cycle, of supporting our local producers and getting healthy fruit and veg directly to the people who need it most.
So, if I could follow that on and use the example from where we were coming from, you look at the edible horticultural industry, it's very low level in Wales. And, actually, it probably is an area where Government could intervene to actually create some policy initiatives, policy levers, to encourage the edible horticultural industry. And so, we'd be suggesting that is one lever, if you like, in the context Sue's talking about, how you might change the way we structure the food industry.
Also, and I think some of the SoNaRR conclusions yesterday, indeed, the regulations the Minister's announced around farming and polution levels, et cetera, these will all drive change in that food sector. The question is to try and drive the change towards the agenda we've just been talking about.
Thank you. I'll move on to Llyr, unless—. Sorry, I don't want to cut off any other witnesses.
I think it moves neatly onto Llyr from where you ended there, Jenny, so thank you. Llyr.
Yes, it does lead on very neatly, actually, thank you, Chair, because I led a debate on the changes needed in terms of the food sector just before Christmas, and it's exactly what we've heard today in terms of what needs to happen. But, of course, nothing changes. So, what I want to know is what discussions have you had with the Welsh Government. I know it's not solely Welsh Government's responsibility, but Government, clearly, has to drive this. So, what discussions have you had making the priority actions that you've identified happen?
Well, it's back to my earlier comment, if I may. Some of these are longer term issues, where we have started those conversations on the back of the conclusions of the report. Equally, there are some short-term projects that actually we are seeking to arrange through the delivery arrangements we have put in place and we can talk about a bit later. And we make things happen very quickly, which will be, I think, good demonstrator projects of what we can do. But, as you rightly say, it isn't just Government here; there's a whole set of players here that have to be brought in. My own personal view—although it may be difficult to talk about sometimes—is we have to find a way of creating the market and getting the market involved in this. Market mechanisms will drive change here, not just public sector intervention. And creating those market mechanisms will be hiding one of the biggest challenges. At the moment, I think we are struggling a bit to actually work out how to do that and how to do that in a way that actually produces the sort of result we want. So, there's an area for whole other debate, but, for me, that will be one of the major levers that we need to start looking at. The market is—there is a lot of money out there; there is a wall of money seeking to invest in environment, if I can use that title—finding it very difficult, apart from things like carbon capture and things like that, to find that place to invest.
Sue wants to come in.
These are clearly huge issues. Welsh Government is already doing some really interesting work in looking at replacing the common agricultural policy and moving to new sustainable land management payments. In fact, I've just come from a meeting this morning with the team in Welsh Government, and, frankly, I'm inspired by the work that Welsh Government is doing right now to take a properly holistic view of the changes that are needed for public health, for climate and for nature, and looking really hard at how they can support the whole farming system to make that transition. Now, that is a longer term project that does need to be supported by shorter term actions, but I think Sir David's pointed out already that some of the ideas that came forward to us in the green recovery group were brilliant examples of people and communities already wanting to get on and do some of those things. So, community-supported agriculture schemes: people in their communities wanting help and support to buy, acquire or rent land so they can develop horticultural businesses that will support their local communities. Now, there are a range of things that Government can do quickly: making sure that councils do make land available to community schemes, for example, or providing patient finance or support, or backing applicants who are looking elsewhere in the market for finance to acquire land to be able to engage in those projects.
The other really important thing that Welsh Government can do—and, again, Wales leads the field on this—is looking at public procurement, looking at the whole value of the resource that Wales already spends on things like food and making sure that that money is directed to the most sustainable producers and growers, and buys fruit and veg, or starts entering into contracts with producers of fruit, veg and sustainably produced meat and dairy, to give them the confidence that they need to start shifting their business to provide for the public plate in Wales.
There's nothing anybody—
Tim Peppin might come in here, actually.
Before Tim Peppin, can I—
No, that's okay. There’s nothing anybody has said that I disagree with, but we've been saying this for 10 years. I've been in environment committees when exactly that about procurement was said 10 years ago, and exactly the point about, for example, local authorities making land available to community growing, community projects. There was a campaign in Pembrokeshire to stop the council selling off a council farm to the highest bidder because of the financial pressure that they're under, when there was a ready, willing and able community stood by, wanting to take it over. So, my question again is: how do we make it happen?
Tim, do you want to come in here?
Are you calling me in?
Thank you, Chair. I fully accept the points that have been made there. I thought it just might be useful to give a bit of an explanation of the local authorities' role in terms of the green recovery taskforce. Going back to when the COVID outbreak was kicking off, Councillor Andrew Morgan, the Welsh Local Government Association leader, was very keen that local authorities looked at how investment in local government services could help to provide a boost to local economies, and we worked with the 22 local authorities to try and identify a range of schemes that could be undertaken to help pump some money back into economies and get them up and moving again. An important part of that exercise was to look at ways it could be done in green ways, so when the NRW taskforce was being pulled together, what we agreed was that we would work alongside the taskforce to make the necessary links. So, we didn't want to have disconnected pieces of work going on, we wanted to look at ways in which local authorities could complement the work the taskforce was was trying to do and support it.
So, that is the approach we've taken. We've looked at a variety of ways where work through the local nature partnerships, the old biodiversity action plans in local authorities, can contribute to the efforts that the taskforce was putting together. It's wider than just the food issues—which are very important—we've been talking about, but it also picks up on some of the points Jenny Rathbone was making earlier around that issue of the circular economy, tackling production and overconsumption, and also about helping more deprived and disadvantaged communities.
So, the local authorities have been looking at what they can do to help support in those areas, and what we're trying to do is make sure that the innovative ideas coming through as a result of the green recovery taskforce have got the support of local authorities and add maximum value. So, not taking away from the issues that have been raised and the financial pressures on local authorities, but, clearly, if we're going to make a difference, we've got to make the best use of all resources, and that's why this more integrated approach, we think, is the most positive one.
Thank you. Sir David, sorry, you did want to say something.
It was just to pick up your fundamental question, Llyr. For me, one of the things that has become apparent in the work of the taskforce is that the barriers to entry, if you like, to some of the issues you've been talking about seem quite considerable. We seem to have created some labyrinthine processes. We actually seem to have created a system where people find it very difficult to access, to understand. Part of our job and part of the delivery bit we're trying to do at the moment is to ease that and give support to people to make things happen quickly, to navigate a route through some of this, not overturning public procurement rules and things like that, but actually supporting people so they understand what they have to do, because we have got some quite complicated processes inside the public sector around how you do some of this change you were referring to. I think we are starting to show, through some of the initial projects, and will, as we move forward—we're going out in February for a second round—how you can make this happen more quickly.
Well, I'd say 'amen' to that, certainly. So, just coming on to resources and funding, clearly that's one big area, and you've touched on the need to leverage funds from elsewhere, and, again, talk of insurance companies and Network Rail contributing to flood schemes in the past has been something that we've heard regularly that hasn't really happened. But I was interested in the green marketplace and the blended finance ideas that were in the report. But could you tell us a little bit about how you want to build on that specifically? But also, clearly, a lot of this has to be stimulated by investment from Welsh Government, or some of this at least, and, clearly, those budgets are under pressure, already allocated, potentially having to be taken away from other things. So, could you just talk to us a little bit about how you see that approach playing out?
Two points to start with: this is not an NRW taskforce, let's be clear about this. I'm just simply chairing it—
—[Inaudible.] the Minister. So, it's not part of our business. We're hosting the delivery bit at the moment for colleagues. That's what we're doing. I think, on the issue of the money, we have found that there is actually quite a lot of money available if you start looking around and hunting for it. Actually, some of the projects we've put forward—and I might bring Peter into this—some of the projects we got pushed forward were almost like, 'Just give us the money,' when, actually, the projects needed more expansion, they needed more collaboration across a wider grouping, et cetera, more thoughtfulness in connectivity. So, sometimes, the answer just isn't the money; the answer is actually the mindset about how you approach it. Certainly, we have within the last few weeks found pots of money that we've been able to bring to bear on certain projects and which mean we'll get them up and running quite quickly.
But going back to the point Sue's made—I think it's been made from Tim's point of view in local government as well—you can find ways of releasing resource and then getting it matched by the private sector, for example, which will all add to this agenda. So, I'm not as pessimistic if you just simply take a public sector lens here. I think we need to start looking more widely at the Welsh investment bank and all those sorts of things, thinking very differently and radically about how you make this change using different models. But, perhaps, Peter, would you comment as the NGO side of this and how some colleagues are reacting?
Yes, of course, Sir David. And, Llyr, I've been around those 10 years that you reflect on, and I think one of the refreshing things about this piece of work is that the focus is on the implementation gap. I've been involved in far too many groups where we've produced a report that sat on a shelf and nothing happened as a result of it, and I think one of the refreshing aspects of this piece of work is that it is connecting a set of people who can make things happen actually to work together with a bottom-up approach—168 submissions that we're now working with.
And going back to the point, I think the lessons from the crisis that we're going through is the importance of the community-led response, and one of the things we've got to harness is that community-led response that we've seen in the crisis. How do we harness that in the recovery? And that's been a key principle that the group has been working towards. I think there may be need going forward, and I think there are some areas where legislation can help. I know in WCVA we've been talking about whether there is a community empowerment Act—are there lessons from Scotland, who've got that sort of legislation that can give more power to communities that can respond to the point that you raised in terms of the Pembrokeshire example, where there's more legislative power behind that sort of response?
So, the other point, though, is that the innovation in the funding point is important. I've been championing the social investment Cymru model, which is a well-established model now, where we're providing loans and blended finance through the third sector for supporting a wide range of social issues. I think there's scope for a green investment bond, a green investment fund that can take short-term money and make it into a long-term legacy. One of the problems that the sector faces is this continual need to respond to short-term issues, short-term funding—'We've got this bit of funding, so can you spend it by the end of the year?' That type of response is classic. And quite often, also, those requirements around the funding, as David said, can be a labyrinth as well. So, we need to look at ways in which we can put long-term funding packages together, and I think social investment Cymru provides one model of how that could work going forward, drawing in private finance as well as public finance. But it's important to recognise the point you made—it does need to start with a recognition of investment for the long term from Welsh Government for that to happen.
Back to Jenny.
I just want to refocus on the food issue, because that is a developing crisis amongst my poorest constituents. So, fruit and veg; the Minister Lesley Griffiths wrote to me in November, saying that we don't have the geography or the climate to grow all the fruit and veg we currently consume in Wales. Nobody is suggesting that we should be trying to grow bananas, but she was arguing that we have to focus on getting a deal with the EU, but we've all seen just how the non-tariff barriers have actually hiked the prices massively. Meanwhile, in May, Amber Wheeler did an audit of all the horticultural producers in Wales and suggested that relatively small sums of money would actually enable them to really ramp up their production through things like polytunnels or washing facilities and that sort of thing. My sense is that it's happened in a very minimal way, but it now needs to happen in a much bigger way as the growing season is going to be upon us within the next six weeks. So, what's your sense of what is required, and how much is what Lee Waters calls 'controlled environment pilots' in the foundational economy programme going to be a way of resolving the food security crisis we currently have?
Perhaps we'll ask Sue to take that first, if we could, Chair.
Really, really good questions. I think I'd possibly slightly disagree that we don't have more carrying capacity for fruit and vegetables in Wales. We've just commissioned a report from the French think tank IDDRI, published just a couple of weeks ago, which demonstrates that we certainly do have both the climate and the capacity to grow a lot more fruit and veg, nuts and pulses here in Wales, and move closer to a sense of sufficiency. Now, of course, we're not going to be entirely self-sufficient, and that probably isn't even desirable—trade has very positive impacts in building progressive relationships with other countries around the world—but we could do a lot more. To act on, if you like, the multiple challenges in front of us—restoring nature, acting on the climate emergency, and the heath and well-being crisis in front of us, too—growing more fruit and veg closer to communities is a critical part of the answer.
Now, in my local area, just up the road in Crickhowell, there's a lovely little project that's just been initiated with a small amount of patient private finance helping a young couple to start growing fruit and veg on the edge of Crickhowell. It's a beautiful project. I encourage you to go and have a little look at it, when you're allowed out. But it's a lovely example of a small amount of private finance having faith in a really passionate and committed young couple, new entrants into the system, who are able and willing to experiment and grow more of the fruit and veg that a community like Crickhowell does really value. Now, those sorts of projects are possible in many different places and don't need huge sums of money. We've got lots of those ideas in front of us now as part of the green recovery taskforce, and the group that we've convened, with the resources that we've put together in a kind of delivery partnership, is going to be turning its attention to how quickly it can make that happen, how we can crowd in the resources that are needed and support those folk, as you say Jenny, at this particular point in time when we're at the right point in the year to start thinking about growing. We can really help make that happen.
I think Neil wants to come in here.
I agree with everything that's been said, but the reality is that the supermarket chains are super-dominant in the supply of fresh vegetables and frozen vegetables and so on, and they've got to be part of this equation. They've got to be convinced that there is some commercial advantage. Sir David said that market-based solutions are the ones that are most likely to be successful. How do we integrate the supermarkets into this kind of mindset that we've been talking about?
Can I just come in here? Because what Sue's talking about is a series of projects that effectively are demonstrator projects, that actually show it is possible. The question I think Neil's asking is then: how do you scale that up? And the question, I think, is a real pivotal point, because at the moment, the economic model we have does not in any way incentivise the use of the sort of facilities we're talking about. So, how do you get some of the supermarkets to pivot back on that? In some of the conversations we've had in this report—I had one with a farmer who used to grow carrots, and he used to have to take them, I think, to Peterborough, eventually, and so it just became totally uneconomic. Previously, he used to take them to the back of a Co-op in the local town.
The question is, we are seeing some signs of supermarkets reorientating their supply chains, the way they operate, thinking very differently and very laterally. The thing to do here, I think, is where Government needs to enter that space and think about how it can, if you like, aid and assist the rebuilding and changing of those business models, not thinking you can do it by just pulling a public sector lever. I think that's where one of the critical points of focus should be for the future.
Equally, and I keep going on about this to the point of being boring about it, there is a wall of investment money out there looking for ways to actually get into the environment space, and at the moment there are some real big barriers to it, some of them, if you like, in the private investment industry, but also, there are plenty of people looking for long-term, small yield, but safe yield, and you can, by thinking differently, put some funds together, like Sue's been talking about, and actually scale those up into a very big scale where you might get individual supermarkets or chains as well as individuals to actually start investing. So, I think there's a huge amount of work here, but I think we should be very careful not to just keep reaching for this public sector lever, personally.
Nevertheless, the public sector lever is quite important. The NFU have been saying for years, 'We'll grow anything for which there's a market', and if we can get the public sector to break down its requirements into bite-sized chunks, then surely that would encourage new entrants. But we've been going on about this for quite a while. Puffin Produce, they could double their production of the vegetable production that needs to be mechanised. How are we going to galvanise both private sector investment and public sector procurement to get on with it now?
I think, personally, and Sue will come in, but on the procurement side, a lot of the problem is about deep-seated cultural issues around how we operate procurement functions. It's a bit of a line, but we're always end up having to buy from IBM because they're safe. We don't take as many risks as we could. And particularly now, in the context of food production in Wales and the interest in public sector organisations to buy more locally, they have the freedom to do that now; they should be exercising that freedom. But it's about political will in the end there. I wasn't suggesting a criticism of public sector levers; I'm simply saying it isn't just the only lever, that we should be thinking more expansively. Sue might want to comment.
And a very powerful lever in all this, of course, is citizen power. We've seen through the coronavirus crisis how people have pivoted, if you like, away from some of their traditional purchasing habits and moved to buy from different places and in different ways. So, there's been a real growth in local food supply chains meeting the gap that the supermarkets ended up leaving for a little while in the early part of that crisis. But it has started to change people's habits, and it's started to make people think hard about where they go to buy their food, and what else they're buying when they buy that food; they're buying an investment in their own local community.
And actually, in response to your question, Neil, supermarkets are also paying attention to those messages. There are already significant shifts in direction of travel from the major supermarkets in looking to source more of their produce from sustainable producers in the UK, because they know that's what their consumers want, it's what their shoppers want.
So, like everybody else on this call, I've been doing this work for decades, and sometimes you feel as if you've been having the same conversation over and over again. But one of the things that, I think, makes me feel a bit better about that is that change often happens when you reach a tipping point. So, you say the same things over and over again, you get more people involved in that conversation, you convince more and more people of that particular direction of travel, and eventually you reach a tipping point where we go from one way of going on to a new way of going on, and I think we are at that point.
So, the issues that we're all describing here—the role of private finance, private equity, the new levers that Government does have at its disposal now we've exited the European Union and we have opportunities to shape a new basic payment scheme for farmers, or a new sustainable land management scheme for farmers, and the way that citizens are thinking differently about the impact they can have on the climate and nature crisis and on their own health. All of that is adding up to something, so perhaps it's our job to corral that energy, to align that energy and direct it to the sorts of actions that we can all take right away.
Tim might want to talk about the local government procurement changes that are happening, Chairman.
Yes, thank you, Chair. Some really quite exciting work going on in the field of local authority procurement at the moment and, as Sue said, you can see these sea changes taking place. The procurement network in local authorities has been discussing this social value concept, and how you actually go about procurement in a different way. That is starting to lead to very different approaches. So, when you go out to procure something, you're not just going out to look at the lowest cost or the most efficient solution; you're actually looking at what are the outcomes you want to get as a result of procuring, and then you score against those different outcomes. If your outcomes are that you want to tackle local youth unemployment, and you want to ensure local small and medium-sized enterprises are given a leg up, then you can build that into your scoring framework. I think marrying together the changes that are going on in procurement with the sorts of initiatives we've been discussing here, where we're trying to transform the way we produce and consume, you can knit these things together to have a much bigger impact.
A lot of this is driven by the size of the contract. I know, for example, in construction, building roads, they put out £50 million or £100 million—very large—contracts. No local supplier or contractor can bid for it. We also know that with lots of the food contracts, they do all schools rather than one school; they drive out smaller local people by the sheer size of the contract they put out.
What I'm saying is, I think that approach is changing. There are efforts being made to look at breaking up contracts so they are more accessible.
Okay, but we're still taking baby steps and we've been talking about this for five years. I think I want to move the conversation on, really, to talk about the green recovery delivery partnership and how you're going to use this to drive through all that cultural resistance that David mentioned.
I think we might be overselling the green delivery partnership. Basically, we've got four or five people seconded into an office who are there to help with what we've just been talking about. I do, again, think, though, it is, if you like, a demonstration of what we perhaps need to do in the future, because what has become clearer and clearer is that some organisations, communities and projects do need some help in actually navigating their way through some of this, if you like, acting as the joiner of things together between public and, if you like, the project, the public sector or whatever. So, in the group we've got together, we have secondments from public and private people involved—from Welsh Water for example, and Sue's helped out with putting somebody in there as well. These are people who are, essentially, project leaders and project managers, who are operating that function and helping people to make things happen. Now, again, this is focused at the moment solely on the projects we've brought forward in the top categories, but we're moving on to the next groupings, and actually, also, part of their function is to bring different constituencies together, bring different projects together, where you might suddenly see some real synergies.
One of my favourite examples of this is the Welsh coastal path, which started off as a project, effectively, to, if you like, improve the Welsh coastal paths, but then actually morphed into looking at the economic hinterland of the Welsh coastal path and looking at actually how you can invest in the green recovery of that hinterland and green investment, whether it be people who are providing accommodation along the path or et cetera, and that's morphed into an even bigger project about how people might work together in partnership, and we're assisting on some of that. In terms of tourism, the USP for that, if you just think about the path, not just for walkers, perhaps for disabled people et cetera, et cetera, and a green theme on the whole thing could be quite something.
So, bringing different groups together to actually make, if you like, the connections and make things happen. It's a very small little operation at the moment and it's designed to be that. I personally think it's, if you like, something to look at for the future, because I do think there is a real role for this intermediary to make things happen between institutions and projects and actually get things done. Some of the work the WDA did—not all of it, but some of the work the WDA did—was something very successful in that neck of the woods, actually making connections and making things happen. But I do think we should be looking at this in the future.
Okay. You've been very successful in getting some funding from other large bodies in the Welsh landscape like Welsh Water, the National Trust, the food and farming commission that Sue Pritchard represents. That's all really important, but are there significant resource implications for NRW, as it's being hosted by NRW?
No, we've just absorbed the cost of actually supporting the group so far within our—. It's part of our mission anyway, in terms of nature based solutions, et cetera. So, we're not looking to invest there, but we are supporting, and one of the things we are looking at with other organisations around skills is actually bringing in and joining in the project that's being funded at the moment by—. I've forgotten the name of it. Sue, help me out here. The—. Bringing young people in, giving them roles et cetera, for a year, to help them move into the job market.
Apprenticeships. Sorry, my mental block. So, we're not seeing this as a massive investment for NRW, although we can—. For example, we are looking at our grants regime and actually working out whether we can actually, if you like, tailor that grants regime more to the priorities we've identified in this work.
How much do you think this group's going to be a ginger group to make sure that resistance to change or just—not reinventing the wheel is going to drive this forward?
Difficult for me to comment. I think all I'd say is that, picking up Peter's point earlier on, one of our working imperatives has been to get stuff done and actually demonstrate, rather than just writing a report and putting it on a shelf. There's nothing people rally round more than little items of success, and, from those, you scale them up. So, I think that, as a method, has worked very well. I think Peter might want to comment from his neck of the woods, but certainly I'm very encouraged by that and the enthusiasm it's released. I pulled Tim Peppin's leg that he described our response, from one local authority, as 'quite refreshing', which was interesting language to hear from the local government towards the NRW function, basically.
Peter, do you want to come in?
Peter, if you want to say something and we're going to have to move on to Janet.
Yes. I'll just come in briefly, really just to reinforce the point about the fact that this is about enabling that energy that we're seeing in terms of the mutual-aid response that we're seeing to COVID to come through to the bigger scale. And our job, I think, is to make those connections, unblock the blockages that exist, and really support the delivery on the ground. I think, obviously, there's the core team, but I think it's also the wider network of the partnership itself—the task group that existed in terms of how we work together. I certainly see that in the marine area, where we've now had an event, following the taskforce report, where we had about 200 people engaged around how we develop the marine environment—the blue recovery part of this message, which is critical. So, I think it's been a really important stimulus, and people, if you like, have sat up and thought, 'Right, I can engage in this', and there's support to make things happen. So, I think we're at the starting point, but I think it's a great—yes, it's a great start.
Could you explain how success will be measured on a target such as to direct identified proposals to existing sources of support and funding? For example, will there be a target for funding support take-up, and will there be a target on how many proposals should be progressed? Also, with the agreed establishment of an interim green recovery delivery partnership office, hosted by NRW, how will the public know it's actually receiving value for money?
Well, I should make the point that this is not a grant funding process. So, we're not here to actually get projects in and award money. So, if you like, the normal, traditional ways that you would measure some of these things I don't think are relevant in our situation. The ginger group point that Jenny made, actually, is interesting. We're here to stimulate, provoke, prompt, provoke, et cetera, and actually by making connections make things happen. So, in one sense, some of the perhaps more traditional ways of measuring outputs, as I would be used to, or outcomes, won't apply here.
Certainly, I personally have a great affinity with the notion of innovation. Innovation is, quite often, a different process from what you normally do. Innovation means you have to fail, and failure means success in the sense of, if it fails, you move on quickly to something else, and I think that's more of our role. But we obviously will work within the framework of normal public procurement, all the things that would normally apply, to make sure things are done properly. Certainly, we would—. We are in NRW taking a view about how successful we think we're being with this: are we making the impact in, for example, public policy, are we seeing gains made in the agenda that Sue, Peter and Tim have been talking about? But I wouldn't point to a classic description of what the outcomes would be.
But we will do a piece of work that will reflect on, if you like, what we think we've achieved, the ups and the downs. One piece, for example, would be—. I'm due shortly, in early February, to meet some individuals from the private sector to hear their stories about some of the frustrations they experience in trying to get into this environment space, and I've agreed with Ministers I'll write that up and actually put that into the mix, just to give some evidence of actually how we might improve things.
So, in terms of scrutiny or challenge, even, or monitoring, there won't be any in place?
Okay. Sue wants to come in on the last question.
Well, scrutiny—we're here today. Challenge and monitoring—we're certainly getting a lot of that around the place. There's certainly a healthy debate in the taskforce. But this is not a long-term standing organisation that you'd apply the normal methodologies to. I think that's the point. It's something to try and stimulate to try and move things forward, and we are. We are starting to take a very careful look at actually how we're using what limited resource we have in this little delivery office and what we're starting to do. We've got somebody seconded from the National Trust who's running the office for us, leading that office, and again we have the usual holding to account from the people who are helping us.
Sue wants to come in. She's waved to me a couple of times.
I think there are some very straightforward metrics that we can deploy, actually. So, for example, the idea of a Welsh national nature service is an idea that's really taken hold in our conversations. We had lots of ideas of a similar nature and we've got now 150 groups and organisations working with us to co-design something that could really change the way we approach nature recovery in Wales. So, some simple metrics for that particular project could be—so, who's involved, who's come forward to get involved. The list of groups is everything from the big NGOs, like the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and WWF, through to the education organisations like Lantra. The probation service is involved, thinking about how they can provide opportunities for people in the criminal justice system. The national parks are involved. The NFU's involved—the farming organisation. So, one metric could be who's involved, how many are involved, and in what way are they able to do more together than they were able to do apart—what impact can they have together? What actions can they bring about together that they weren't able to do working separately?
And as David says, of course, we're not a statutory body—we're a partnership that has come together to try to make something happen in a crisis. But we're all part of statutory bodies or organisations. So, my board will scrutinise my work in supporting this, making sure that I'm providing value for my organisation across Wales as part of my remit. So, there are scrutiny mechanisms that exist within each of those organisations, and there are simple, straightforward metrics that we can deploy to see whether the work that we're doing and we're helping to bring about is having the impact that we all want.
Thank you. So, the delivery partnership has said that it will develop options for enhancing community-led recovery initiatives, with a specific focus on more disadvantaged communities. I wonder if you may provide more detail on these disadvantaged communities and whether there are figures on how many initiatives you aim to work with, and if you will look to broaden this scope to ensure that initiatives benefit youngsters in our rural towns and villages, who are so often currently overlooked.
Well, I haven't got the detail to hand. I'm happy to write to you if I can, Janet, and give you more detail on that. Certainly, it's an issue that we will be looking at in our next meeting of the taskforce itself, actually. But, as we mentioned earlier, the apprenticeship stuff—we're trying to get across as many of these organisations as we can at the moment to take people. That would be a small, demonstrable step in what we're trying to do. But I'll happily write to you in more detail on that.
Tim might want to comment.
Yes, thank you. As you know, Chair, you took part recently in the launch of the WLGA's rural manifesto, and that issue about encouraging young people to stay in rural areas and make their livelihoods there is front and centre of that strategy. In taking forward the green recovery work, that can be central to the drive we're trying to get here. So, we have looked at initiatives like, on active travel routes, building in replanting schemes to develop the biodiversity. All of that type of activity improves the appearance of an area, and it creates job opportunities in a local area, skills training opportunities, that help to enhance the quality of life in those areas. Peter Davies was, obviously, very heavily involved in the work on the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015, and the local authorities are using that as their guiding principle now. So, it does encourage you to look across the board at how all of these things work together.
Before I call Neil Hamilton in, perhaps you'd like to share that report with all members of this committee, because I know that Llyr Gruffydd and I have had it, but I don't think the other Members have.
It is being sent out to all MPs and all MSs, Chair.
Thank you. Neil.
Yes. I'd like to move on to ask about the findings and recommendations of your report on supporting the environmental sector. Obviously, looking through it, nobody could possibly disagree with the generalised conclusions you've arrived at, but I'm wondering if we can put some flesh on the bones there of who's going to do what. You say things, for example, like:
'the challenge of building reliable, predictable and efficient funding within this sector has to be met.'
And one of the things that the report said was:
'When discussing the wider issue of organisational resilience and sector stability it was very difficult to move respondents on from an understandable focus on money.'
Well, there obviously isn't a limitless pot of money, regardless of quantitative easing and the Chancellor of the Exchequer's ripping up of the traditional rules of Treasury control. That isn't something that is is going to go on for ever and a day.
One thing that I did draw from this was your emphasis on leadership and a strong Natural Resources Wales. So, perhaps we could start with that, Sir David, and you could tell us a little more about this active role that you're going to take in supporting the sector and what it actually means in practical terms for NRW. Because, of course, NRW is also stretched in its resources for the many and varied tasks that it has to perform.
Yes. Well, we have covered some of these issues already in some of the conversations. Peter referred to the social investment fund and things like that, so we can pick some of those up again, if you wish.
On the NRW points, I think—. I've been before you with my NRW hat on. One of the things that we've tried to do, particularly with the ENGO point, is that we have actually distributed—as you know, the Minister made some additional funding available; we distributed that for local organisations to survive. The report that's been produced is well worth a very detailed read, because it does give you some markers for the future on how, if you like, ENGOs will need to operate a bit more collegiately and collectively. We have very many of them as freestanding and one-issue items, whereas we realise we need to get more cohesion here into actually assisting with the agenda, rather than just commenting on it, if you like.
I'm particularly keen, in the way I describe NRW, to get others to help us to do some of the lifting—so, rather than just relying on strong regulatory sticks, we actually rely on involvement being part of the agenda. We've talked before about water quality, for example; we'll have the agri-environment regulations coming in from April. I'm very anxious that we make sure we work with farming unions, for example, to try and make sure that we work together collectively on this agenda, rather than just simply sitting there staring at each other with regulatory sticks in hand et cetera. So, NRW is trying to change its business model to move more to collective, if you like, responsibility, working with others, and that would be my response on the NRW bit. And, frankly, this agenda benefits the whole NRW mission anyway, in the sense of what we're trying to do. But perhaps, Peter, you could talk about the NGOs here.
Yes. Thanks, David. Yes, obviously, the voluntary sector has been significantly hit, as the report highlights, particularly those that are relying on trading and fundraising, and have a number of staff on furlough. The opportunity for volunteer engagement has been reduced in many aspects, while also, though, we have seen that mutual response, that mutual-aid response that I've been referring to, in terms of that community-led response and a greater connection with nature. So, there's a balance on both of those points in terms of where we are with the sector, but there's no question that a lot of the sector is really struggling over this period.
I just want to give credit to some of the foundations that have stepped up. Welsh Government has stepped up and put money in, but also foundations like the Moondance and Waterloo foundations and the Steve Morgan Foundation have really stepped up in terms of supporting the sector through this period, and I think it's important to recognise that.
Yes, the report does highlight, and Sir David has highlighted this as well, that there is need for some more collective cross-sector working within the sector—so, looking at how the environment sector works across with health and social care, but also how it works across with the private sector as well. There is scope for innovation—I've mentioned the social investment fund—that's certainly the case.
One of the lessons, though, out of the COVID crisis, has been that Government did invest, has invested, in core funding for the social infrastructure. So, the county voluntary councils, for example, have enabled the community response, and they've received core funding over a long period of time, and that's really delivered dividends. I think there's a case for looking at how, if you like, the core environmental—the enabling function of how the environment can be delivered at a local level, how that support can be delivered at a local level, how that can be incorporated into some sort of core funding programme.
I think the local nature partnerships, at a local level, are part of the answer to that; I think they're really important, the local nature partnerships. But I think it's a broader approach in terms of Welsh Government and other funders also looking at how they tackle—I mentioned this earlier—the issue of providing support into the sector. There's too much short-term funding, too much funding that has too many criteria built around it, unrealistic deadlines, complicated requirements ruling out smaller organisations. So, it's both the funder perspective and also the beneficiary—the voluntary organisations themselves—taking some responsibility for shaping the future.
I think it comes back, to a great extent, to the point that Mike Hedges made earlier on, which is that the scale of activity that's required often freezes out more local contributors. NRW is a national organisation, but it obviously operates in a local context, and what we need to do is to bring together the fragmented organisations that have complementary roles to play in a more local context. Somebody's got to act as the co-ordinator at different geographical levels in Wales to make this work.
We have the public services boards, of course, and I think they've been finding stronger ground to stand on as part of the crisis as well.
I'd certainly point the committee towards the developing role of local nature partnerships, which are working across sectors—local authorities, public sector, voluntary sector and private sector—co-ordinating work at a very local level and enabling local action. And also just to give a shout out to the important role that Wales Environment Link play in terms of co-ordinating at a national level as well. But we've got to look at it from both ends. We've got to look at it from the funding end—from the funder's end—because there are definitely changes that need to be made at that end, as well as looking at the sector itself in terms of how the sector takes a proactive stance in responding to these challenges.
Back to you, Janet.
A July 2020 survey noted that we should expect it to take up to five years for environmental NGO operations to recover to pre-March 2020 levels. Given the input required from them to achieve a green recovery, what recommendations has your group made to the Minister about support for these ENGOs? Have you considered the proposal put forward by Wales Environment Link to have some form of core funding where it's vital to a project's success? Is there also a concern about retaining this specialised knowledge in Wales should ENGO staff be made redundant?
I think we've covered some of this in Peter's previous answer. Maybe, Tim, would you—? I'm just looking at my colleagues here to see if they would like to add anything, because Peter was talking about the core funding issue and actually how that needs to be looked at very carefully from the point of view of Government et cetera. Is there anybody else on the team who could add to that? Tim, Sue?
I'm not sure if I've got anything particular to add. I think Peter's probably better placed to respond.
Rather than repeat myself too much on this—there is definitely a case for looking at the core funding issues. I do point to the importance of the CVC network. They have benefited from core funding, and that has delivered benefits in terms of community engagement. There's something that we can look at there in terms of that model that connects to the local nature partnerships. I understand the difficulties around core funding for Government, so although it's a simple answer, it's not necessarily an easy solution. Some of the easier solutions are around better constructed funding models when there are funding streams available, particularly tackling the issue of short-term funding and the constant need for innovative models—people who are trying to reinvent new projects all the time in order to get funding. So, core funding is an important issue, but I think we need an overall look at how the funding structure impacts upon environmental NGOs right across the board.
Thank you. The 'supporting the environmental sector in Wales' report recommends active leadership from a strong NRW to support the sector. Given the budget and staffing constrains faced by NRW, do you feel the agency is well placed to provide this leadership, and how does this recommendation sit in relation to plans for an environmental watchdog, or the incoming interim environmental protection assessor?
Well, I can't comment on the latter points in that question, obviously. That's a matter for Government; they'll talk about that. In terms of NRW, I think I tried to explain earlier on that working with NGOs is a crucial part of our, if you like, business model, and we're trying to move towards that, working more closely with colleagues to help us do some of the lifting. If I use the water quality issue, we've been increasingly moving to a water catchment approach to it, where we bring in all the farmers, we bring in the anglers and we bring in the water company, et cetera, so there's a sense of a shared mission about the water quality in that particular catchment and, actually, what needs to be done, rather than just looking at it through a simple regulatory lens. So, the answer to your question is that we see the NGO sector here as a crucial part of that weaponry and armoury in pursuing that agenda.
Thank you very much. We've come to the end of our allotted time. Can I thank you for coming along and giving your evidence to us today? It's been very much appreciated. Can I just remind Sir David Henshaw and others that you'll get a transcript of this? What I would tell you to do is what I always do: check they haven't missed any words, because if you're anything like me, and you move around a bit, sometimes the words don't always come through. So, again, thank you very much. We'll break until 3 o'clock.
Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 14:46 ac 14:59.
The meeting adjourned between 14:46 and 14:59.
Prynhawn da. Good afternoon. This is the second session on animal health and disease prevention. I'm very pleased to welcome Aled Jones, Catherine McLaughlin and Nick Fenwick to give evidence to the committee today. If it's okay, I'll start with the first question. What progress has been made to date in implementing the Welsh Government's antimicrobial resistance in animals and the environment five-year implementation plan 2019-24? Who wants to start?
I believe as chairman of RUMA, Cat would be the obvious candidate.
Okay. I'll start, then. I'll just begin by saying a little bit about RUMA, just so that everyone recognises who we are. RUMA is the Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture Alliance. We were established in November 1997, and we're a unique independent non-profit group involving organisations that represent all stages of the food chain from farm to fork. We are UK based, so we have Wales, England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, all with an equal place around the table.
We have made huge and significant progress on the targets, certainly with the Welsh Government's antimicrobial plan. I think it's been really fantastic what's been going on on a UK basis, as well as individual nations within the United Kingdom. Just to give you a little bit of an idea, I can send you through some of the RUMA documents that we published at the back end of last year. I can send those through to the committee after this. We achieved really good targets, really strong targets, at the back of last year, that basically demonstrated that we—. So, we've retained the position of fifth lowest, in terms of UK sales, in terms of antibiotics for farm animals, in Europe. Sales of the highest priority critically important antibiotics—those are the ones that everyone gets really concerned about, because they're the ones that are critical for human use—have fallen since 2014. Sales of colistin, which is one of the really critical ones, are virtually nil across the veterinary field.
We basically have a 50 per cent reduction in sales since 2014, and now less than 30 per cent of the UK's antibiotics are used to treat disease in farm animals. That's despite more than 1 billion farm animals being reared and managed in the UK every year. That is a reverse situation when you look at a global situation where there's a lot more of a 70:30, with the majority being used in animal agriculture. This is one of the things that we're struggling to get across in UK communications on a regular basis—that actually, we are in a completely different and successful position in the UK compared to some of the global markets.
The one good thing, of course, is that we're all doing this because we're trying to reduce levels of antibiotic resistance. Those have been found through Government monitoring and surveillance and they're also stabilising and falling in response to reductions in use. So, it's a success; it's a really glowing success on the whole industry working together. I think the whole kind of 'one health' initiative and 'one health' mentality around the implementation plan—it's something that we haven't seen replicated in any other aspect of agriculture, I don't think. So, I'm really proud of the industry that I represent. I hope that's answered that bit.
Jenny, I think Mike has dropped off the meeting. We've lost him. He's no longer appearing on the participants list.
All right. Fine. I will take over, in that case. I was going to ask the next question anyway, which is: in the context of the warnings from the United Nations about the rise and rise of the use of antimicrobials for prophylactic use for animal health, how far do you think the Welsh Government's antimicrobial implementation plan—? Is it more than a drop in the ocean to the UK's plan in the international context? Or another way of putting it might be to say, 'Why would we allow any prophylactic use of antimicrobials in the context of the risk to human health?'
Okay. In RUMA, we've talked about this long and hard for many, many years, and it's clear from the comments of various groups that there is no single understanding, first of all, of what we mean by prophylactic use of medicines. So, it's one thing that RUMA believes the debate would benefit from—some clarification on that definition.
There's a widely held and justifiable belief in both human and veterinary medicine that controlled intervention to prevent the outbreak and spread of disease, based on sound professional examination and advice, is always going to be better than cure. There is also general agreement that antibiotics should be used responsibly in human and veterinary medicine, including not using antibiotics to treat viruses or as a substitute for good farm animal practices, which reduce the risk of disease. Those are the principles of the RUMA beliefs, and that's why we consider the following definitions need to be really clarified and really genuinely understood when we're having this type of conversation.
But if we continue to have intensively reared animals in tightly packed buildings, is it not inevitable that it's going to just drive the use of—antimicrobial resistance?
I think we have to be very careful that we don't end up confusing systems-based management with responsible use. When it comes down to it, it's how we actually manage the health and welfare of our animals, it's how we actually look after the welfare and the health of those animals; it's not the system. And that's one thing that RUMA has always been very clear on. So, you can have very intensive farming systems and you can have really extensive farming systems, and it doesn't really make—. When it comes down to it, it's how you actually look after those animals in those systems. So, I wouldn't say that it's down to the scale—it's how you do it.
Okay, thank you. Aled, you wanted to come in.
Yes, I just wanted to come in just to reinforce that message that Cat's made, really—that we shouldn't be targeting systems. I think, as we challenge each other on improving standards, it'll always be the case that we look at our systems and the welfare of the animals, because healthy—happy animals are always healthier. I think that'll be the message as we build systems in the future—that that is respected. And I'm very pleased, likewise, with the interaction that we have as individual farmers with farm vets. Years ago, it used to be the case that the farm vet would only come on the farm and treat animals. Nowadays, I'm pleased to say—and I applaud the veterinary profession, because, young vets these days, they will come on the farm, and, whilst treating, they will always look for the underlying causes of why they are treating that particular animal, and that's very refreshing. So, that building up of trust and understanding as a partnership between the vet and the farmer itself can drive all these gains that Cat has mentioned, and it's a huge success rate for us here. The target for agriculture was to go below 50 mg. We were, in 2014, at 62 mg. We were very close to it then. So, you know, just to bear in mind how well we have done. While saying that, we always say, don't we, in Welsh, nid da lle gellir gwell—it's not good if better is possible—and we must hold to that. Never should we have that underlying acceptance of a low-level disease level. We should always challenge it, have a grumbling dissatisfaction, so we can challenge why these animals need treatment.
Thank you. Nick, is there anything you want to add before we move on?
I'd just highlight the increased awareness. It's clearly too early to say what contribution has been made in terms of actual figures, given the amazing reductions we've seen, as we've heard from Cat, since 2014. These things are always difficult to measure over short terms, because they're to do with animal health, and things like seasons will have an impact on what happens. But it's also worth noting, for example, if I understand the figures correctly—and this isn't my natural area of expertise, certainly, far from it, but use in cattle is the same level as it is in companion animals, and therefore we need to look at this across the board.
I think we also need to bear in mind the dangers of trying to be too ambitious in a world where, as Aled has highlighted, we need healthy animals—we need to look after their welfare—and also the dangers of doing that in a world where we're potentially importing from countries that have standards that are far, far lower than ours, and use that is far, far higher than ours, because the net impact of that would be an increase in antibiotic use in other countries. As we've discussed with regard to environmental and many other issues, we simply export our moral obligations, if you see what I mean.
Okay. So, the use in companion animals was 8 per cent five years ago. Are you saying that that is the rate that we now have in usage in our farmed animals?
No, I was talking about cattle specifically, and I was basing it on the latest data that I picked up this morning. Maybe Cat would correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm looking at the latest statistics that are published by the UK Government, which show figures for use in cattle and companion animals. I just thought it was an interesting comparison to make there. It doesn't mean to say we shouldn't aspire to do more, and we are aspiring to do that. The number of farms that have animal health plans, for example, just continues to grow all the time. As Aled said, when you go to the vets, that's the sort of conversation you have—you don't have the old-fashioned conversations. I remember a flock health group in Dolgellau, and it's the sort of thing that is reiterated all the time, and groups like that have a waiting list of farmers to join them. So, it's something that the industry is very much engaged in and aware of, and keen to do more about.
Great. Cat, did you want to add to that? If not—[Inaudible.]
I just wanted to come in, not to comment on or correct Nick's figures, but it was more just to let the committee know that RUMA, in November last year, we've also launched—. We're now going to look at companion animals, so we've now also got a sister group that's getting under way at the moment, looking at companion animals and equines. So, we're now trying to complete the whole 'one health' story, as it is. So, I think that that will help as well.
Great. All right. Well, Janet Finch-Saunders wants to come in on the progress that has been made against the targets in the five-year plan. Janet.
Thank you, Chair. When Red Tractor dairy standards were reviewed in 2017, changes were made so that all Red Tractor dairy farms are required to undertake an annual review of antibiotics with their vet. Can you tell me what impact, negative or otherwise, this has had on our farmers, especially with dairy cattle and their ability to still produce good milk, but—you know, whether there's been a negative impact to our farmers? Aled.
You know, it's a marvellous opportunity that we have working with the vets, because that day when you go through and you review your antibiotic use is so important, because you can bring the whole year together and you can identify where your strengths and where your failures are in the system. So, for example, let's say it showed up that lameness came up as the prime area, well, obviously, it probably identifies the attention that needs to be done there. So, it's very— extremely—valuable what we're doing, and also I'm glad that the tools we have available these days for monitoring and capturing data are so, so good. Gone are the days when you're shifting paper around. Both the vet and the farmer can work in such a way that all that information is gathered electronically, and it's so easy and seamless to review and to interpret the data.
Could I just come in and add a little bit of context to what the actual targets, the statistics, were? So, in the dairy sector, we have centralised data capture for 95 per cent of dairy herds. We've got sales of HPCIAs as well as dry cow and lactating cow into mammary tubes reduced. We saw sales of vaccines and sealant tubes increased. And we're starting to see mortality, lameness, mastitis and respiratory conditions reduced. Bovine digital dermatitis management has also been given some kind of particular focus on farm as well. One of the things that I will just say on the cattle side, on the ruminants side—it's been very, very clear that we need to concentrate a little bit more on the data capture. That's one thing that's been absolutely apparent in the five years that we've collected the target data—where you have data, you can achieve targets very, very easily and very well. The ruminant sector—so, dairy, beef, sheep—data hasn't been as easy to capture, and it's been a little bit more of a struggle, so that's going to be our focus going forward for the next five years—on those ruminant sectors. It's actually the data collection as well.
Thank you. I'm back again now. I had a power cut—the number of things that can actually go wrong. Back to Jenny.
I just want to have a look at how successful the 'one health' approach has been at having that overarching view of the action in relation to animals, the environment and humans for controlling AMR, because, obviously, in the hospitals, there's constant anxiety about antimicrobial resistant diseases.
I'll answer that, if you like. It's going to be difficult to untangle COVID from where we are on the human side at the minute. Before the COVID pandemic, 'one health' was working very well. Whilst we were seeing substantial reductions in the veterinary medicine side, the human medicine side in the UK was also looking at how it was using antimicrobials in the primary healthcare regimes as well. I think we were looking at about—. They had managed to cut antibiotic use by 9, 10 per cent in a year, when they were starting to look at it. As I say, COVID has made that difficult, so we're bound to see some kind of increase go back up on the human medicine side in primary healthcare trusts, but actually I think 'one health' is the way forward with this. It's galvanised conversations, it's made people come together, and it's put everything in a context, so I think it's working really well. Probably, the one weak side that we are all trying to focus in on this next year in RUMA is the environmental side, and we just need to make sure that we now start and build that into the conversations as well, but it's quite a complicated and complex aspect of the 'one health' message to try and get our heads into. So, I make no apologies; I can't give you many answers on the environmental side at the minute, but, soon, hopefully.
We do know, of course, that public health examines the sewage—the content of sewage—both for COVID and for the appearance of other things in the sewage. So, for example, they can measure heroin use and that sort of thing. So, these are important tools, I would have thought, for ensuring that we have a whole-population approach. Do Aled or Nick want to comment on this? Because it's obviously crucial that we bring these three things together.
I think Aled first.
I'm pleased to say that what Cat's mentioned regarding companion animals closes a gap that was certainly there previously. Can I also mention the fact that quite a number of farmers these days are using probiotics to treat animals? I've had experiences where, rather than using disinfectants, I now use probiotics to cater for these diseases, and it's worked out very, very successfully. When we were mentioning the red tractor approach on targeting the use of antibiotics, well, historically, I'm sure that we were prophylactically using antibiotics as a dry cow treatment to protect those cows during that dry period. These days, we measure the milk bacterial levels during lactation and only those cows that have the high bacterial rates will now be treated. All the rest will be treated with sealants and that's a marvellous opportunity that we have.
Nick, is there anything you want to add further?
No, I would agree with everything that Aled has said.
Okay. Except to add, in the context of what you said earlier, is this apple cart potentially going to be completely upset if we have free trade agreements with countries that use antimicrobials as if they were going out of fashion, like the United States—hormone-fed beef, et cetera?
Yes, in my view, absolutely. It will create a very unlevel playing field and almost by default would lead to the replacement of domestic production with imported foods, and therefore a net increase in antibiotic use in those countries that don't meet the same high standards we have, as well as, of course, causing a whole range of other problems, as I mentioned earlier in terms of the environment, et cetera, because across the board their standards are not as high as ours. We are right at the top of our game and, as Cat said earlier on, we are the fifth best performing in the EU and, compared with countries like the USA, they are right right down at the bottom compared with the UK.
Okay, thank you.
Thank you. Moving on to Neil Hamilton.
If I could move on to bovine TB, there was a 10 per cent fall in new herd incidence last year, but still over 10,000 cattle were slaughtered as a result of being infected with TB. So, clearly there's still a massive problem. Although we've managed to get a vaccine for COVID in a very short time, apparently we still can't get a vaccine for bovine TB until at least 2023. So, I was wondering what you can say about how we can improve the Welsh Government's policy on control of COVID. I know, in the evidence you've given in written form, obviously, you point to the control of vectors in wildlife, which is the lacuna in the policy. Perhaps you'd like to talk to that and add anything else that you might want to say.
Who wants to go first?
Aled, would you like to go first?
I think Nick has offered.
Nick, you go.
I don't mind.
No, no, I just didn't see you.
That's okay. Thanks, Neil. I think that you've hit the nail on the head when you've talked about control of the disease in wildlife. Sadly, we are bumbling along. It's welcome when there's a 10 per cent reduction, but then, maybe in another year, we'll see a 10 per cent increase, and when you look at the graphs, there are some areas that appear to have seen some improvements—difficult to discern, really, when you look at the long-term graphs—and then in other areas we've seen long-term significant increases, so areas where it just gets worse. It just fluctuates from year to year.
It's clear that there are some areas—and this isn't across the board—where disease is introduced through animal movements, cattle movements. Of course, we all acknowledge that. But there are some areas where there is no explicable reason other than wildlife reserve and a significant wildlife disease reserve. In England, in the culling zones, I think the last scientific paper showed a 66 per cent reduction in incidences and in one of the culling areas a 37 per cent reduction. I haven't seen any more recent peer-reviewed figures from those areas, but one would expect, maybe, for that effect to have carried on. Those are staggering reductions in disease incidences. When you live in an area such as Pembrokeshire, you have a major, major problem on your doorstep and only half of the problem is being tackled. So, sadly, we continue to address half of the problem.
That figure that you have just given came from the Downs report on culling in Gloucestershire. I think that it's a 40 per cent figure overall for England in areas where this has been trialled.
That's right, and I think that if you want an illustration to see how the press can distort stuff like that, it's interesting to note that, in the month, or couple of months, when that paper was published in Nature, in 2019 I think, New Scientist chose to publicise a totally different paper that was critical of badger culling. And yet, one of the highest profile journals, Nature, had published quite definitive figures, and those were completely overlooked by the popular scientists' magazine, New Scientist. There is a certain amount of bias there in the system, almost, inherently.
Okay. I think that Aled wants to come in.
Yes. Thank you, Neil. Obviously, TB is such a complex disease, and I don't think that we are anywhere near able to control it at the moment. We are bumbling along, with circa 10,000-12,000 animals per year being taken out. The cumulative effect on human health—. We must remind ourselves of some of these people who are struggling mentally, having to deal—in the chronic areas, where breakdown is something that is a common occurrence—with the stress on both animals and humans of retesting continually.
Now, the wildlife question is such a delicate subject. In no way would you want to be culling healthy animals, but the truth about it is that we are trying as best we can to control the disease in our cattle population. Yes, we do have weaknesses in the testing methods available to us, so there is a danger that some transmission does happen because of animal movements, even though they have been tested. But, sadly, in the wildlife population, in some areas nearly a fifth of badgers found dead have been carrying the disease, and I would guess that quite a number would be dying a horrible death in their sets as well. So, this is a welfare issue in wildlife likewise, and we are not really dealing with that. I do hope, and I sincerely hope, that the vaccine trial will be successful, but, in the interim, we must not leave any opportunity that we have with the tools to control the spread of TB.
Well, I think that you've made an extremely important point about the human cost that is incurred from cattle slaughter, which is not to be underestimated. I think that there were 35 badgers removed last year in Wales, compared with the 10,000 cattle that were slaughtered. I think that that rather puts it into perspective. Nobody sensible wants to see the indiscriminate slaughter of wild animals. That would be completely pointless and, indeed, counterproductive, to the extent that it would excite huge public opposition. But, we have a problem in that we have overwhelmingly urban populations in modern Britain and public understanding of this issue is very limited amongst them. So, that's something, somehow or other, that we have got to address.
I think that Nick wants to come in as well.
Thank you, Chairman. Aled mentioned the high proportion of badgers that were affected in some areas—one in five. I think that it's worth putting that into context. The number of cattle testing positive for TB in Wales is somewhere between one in every 150 and one in every 200. I haven't got the exact latest figure, but the last one I looked at, some time ago, was one in every 175, I think. So, if you compare a figure of one in every five badgers in some high incidence areas with one in every 175, for the sake of argument, you then start to get an understanding of how high the incidence levels are in these wildlife sources.
Have you finished, Neil?
I think so.
Janet, on avian flu.
Thank you. Here we go. Right, they do say be careful what you wish for, because last week it was highlighted, really, that we were very lucky that we hadn't had any incidences of avian flu. So, my heart sank when I saw that we've now got a case on Anglesey. So, obviously, laboratory tests now are needed, aren't they, to determine if the virus is the highly pathogenic type—in the next 48 hours, I assume, that's going on? If so, will the temporary control zone be replaced by a 3 km protection? What assurances can you provide that we're doing everything we can to contain the outbreak? It's just unbelievable—only last Thursday we were saying there'd never been a case and, then, here we are.
Who wants to go first?
I think, like you, I was beginning to hold my breath and think that we would be getting out of it without any incidences, and to have heard this morning that we had one case—. Now, there's always the danger—. You only have to register if you keep 50 and above, and we know full well there are so many chickens and birds being kept in back gardens throughout Wales, and that's the difficulty that we have. Whether or not we have a system where we reduce the numbers that we have to report at—. It would be very difficult for the veterinary service to have that vision of how much they do have to control the whole breadth of Wales as well. That's the difficult challenge we have. I think a lot of people have tried as much as they can to have had their birds inside and kept them away from danger. But it was inevitable, in some ways, that this one case was to come, on Anglesey.
It baffled me, because you tend to think, 'Well, we know that it's occurred in England' and then you think, 'Well, Anglesey', but, as you say, it's as the crow flies almost isn't it? I was shocked that it ended up on Anglesey, if you like. We're pretty confident, are we, that there are no other potentials in north Wales?
Nick wants to come in first.
I think it has to be recognised that what we're seeing this year is a spike that you see every few years, as this disease, which is endemic in wildlife, moves back and forwards as they migrate—the birds that migrate—and what happens is they develop some immunity or maybe there's some Darwinism there, and then you get a new population where, then, the disease has a greater impact and you see these spikes every few years. That's what we've been told in meetings with officials. Therefore, some of this, sadly, is inevitable, but it has to be borne in mind that this is something that arrives with these vast, vast populations of migrating birds and then spreads to other birds and, sadly, to domestic animals. So, the reality of controlling this has to be recognised, particularly in more free-range flocks and environments, where it's nigh on impossible to perfectly isolate those animals from the outside environment. You cannot effectively put them in laboratory conditions, notwithstanding the high biosecurity measures that are in place in housed chicken sheds, et cetera.
Catherine, have you got a view?
Can I just ask if all registered poultry keepers have now been informed about the precautions they need to ensure?
Do you want to start, Catherine, and we'll make our way around again?
As far as I am aware. Let's face it, with avian influenza, it's a multifactorial control route that we've got to take. So, as Nick and Aled have both said, what we're seeing this year is that it's very much on the wings of migratory bird routes. That's largely where it's come from in England and, unfortunately, that will be how it's got to Anglesey as well. It does then come down to good biosecurity, good knowledge and awareness in the industry, and amongst those small-holding, back-yard flock keepers. As far as I'm aware, there will now be lots of information going out about what's happened and what people need to be doing. Certainly in England, where I tend to do most of my business, a lot of housing orders have been notified, and all of that has happened in very, very timely fashion. It's very unfortunate, I think, as a UK, we've got quite good at dealing with AI outbreaks now. So, industry, Government, the Animal and Plant Health Agency, all the private vets, all the state vets, everybody gets together very, very quickly and we start and get into this battle rhythm pattern. And that has happened already, and again, it will be happening now.
Okay. Thank you, Janet. We move on to Llyr.
Dwi wedi bod yn trydar negeseuon gan y prif filfeddyg hefyd yma yng Nghymru ynglŷn â beth ddylai pobl ei wneud nawr mewn ymateb i hyn, felly mae'n debyg mai hwn fydd y prawf o safbwynt ein gallu ni yng Nghymru i reoli a chyfyngu ar ledaeniad y math yma o beth.
Gaf i jest gofyn yn fwy eang ynglŷn â surveillance milfeddygol? Mi wnaeth Aled yn gynharach gyfeirio at y ffaith ei bod hi nawr yn rhywbeth i'w groesawu fod milfeddygon yn dod i ffermydd i drin cyflwr, ond yn edrych yn ehangach ar beth sydd efallai wedi achosi hynny yn y lle cyntaf. Jest yn gyffredinol, ydych chi'n dweud bod surveillance milfeddygol yng Nghymru yn effeithiol ar hyn o bryd, neu oes yna rywbeth y gellid ei wneud i gryfhau hwnnw?
I've been tweeting messages from the chief veterinary officer here in Wales about what people should do in response to this, so this will be the test in terms of our ability in Wales to manage and limit the spread of this kind of thing.
Can I just ask more broadly about veterinary surveillance? Aled referred earlier to the fact that it's now to be welcomed that vets come to farms to treat conditions, but look more broadly at what has caused that in the first place. Just more generally, then, are you saying that vet surveillance in Wales is effective now, or is there anything we could do to strengthen that?
Who wants to go first? Aled.
Well, the work that we do on individual farms is so important. I think there's still an improvement on how we capture data—that has to be first and foremost. Sometimes, we don't really understand the problems that we have on our farm. I'm pleased that that the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board and Farm Assured Welsh Livestock have been building electronic tools to capture this information in collaboration with veterinary practices. So, the level of understanding and knowledge that we have today is far better than we've had in the past. This enables us to tailor disease control measures at an individual farm level to target where there are failings on particular farms. So, I think it's certainly improving, and I'm very pleased, as I said earlier, with the work that vets do and we applaud their efforts.
Diolch, Llyr. Byddwn i'n cytuno 100 y cant efo Aled. Mae'n anhygoel faint o ddata sydd yna ac sydd yn cael ei gasglu. Mae APHA yn casglu gwybodaeth ac mae yna databases ac mae yna wefan anhygoel lle gallwch chi fynd arno fo a gweld lle mae pob clwyf wedi dod i fyny a'r nifer yn eich ardal, ac ati. Mae yna elfen o broblem yn y fan yma, sef cael y wybodaeth yna'n ôl i ffermwyr, ac yn enwedig i ffermwyr sydd yn ofnadwy o brysur yn barod yn trio cadw i fyny efo pethau eraill. Byddwn i'n croesawu rhyw ffordd o gael y data yna yn ôl i mewn i ddwylo ffermwyr, fel eu bod nhw'n gallu bod yn ymwybodol o beth sy'n mynd ymlaen yn eu hardaloedd ac yng Nghymru yn gyffredinol, ac fel eu bod nhw'n gallu ymateb i'r data yna. Mae o yna, yn sicr, ond mae o yna mewn ffurf, efallai, sy'n haws i'w ddeall gan filfeddygon na beth ydy o i ffermwr cyffredin, os liciwch chi.
Mae yna gwestiwn ehangach yn y fan yma hefyd, sef effaith Brexit a beth sy'n mynd ymlaen ar fonitro beth sy'n mynd ymlaen yn y byd ehangach. Dwi'n falch bod yna gytundebau wedi’u gwneud i sicrhau bod gennym ni fynediad at gymaint o ddata â phosibl, ond mae o mor bwysig ein bod ni ddim yn colli'r mynediad yna at wybodaeth sy'n dod o lefydd sydd yn dueddol o ffeindio problemau, fel avian influenza, cyn ein bod ni'n eu ffeindio nhw. Mae o wedi digwydd y tro yma, ond gobeithio y bydd y berthynas yna yn parhau.
Thank you, Llyr. I would agree 100 per cent with Aled. It's astonishing how much data is available and is gathered. APHA gathers information and there are databases and there's an amazing website where you can visit and see where every disease has arisen and the numbers in your area, and so forth. There is a problem here in getting that information back to farmers, particularly farmers that are already very busy trying to keep up with other things. I would welcome some way to get that data back into the hands of farmers, so that they can be more aware of what's going on in their local areas and in Wales in general, so that they can respond to that data. It is there, certainly, but it's there in a form that's perhaps easier to understand by vets than by ordinary farmers.
There is also a broader question here as well, namely the impact of Brexit and what's going on on monitoring what's going on in the broader world. I'm pleased that some agreements have been made to ensure that we have access to as much data as possible, but it's so important that we don't lose that access to information that emanates from places that tend to find problems, such as avian influenza, before we find them. It's happened this time, but I hope that that relationship will continue.
Ocê. Yn amlwg mae yna lwyth o ddata posib, onid oes e, y byddai modd ei ddefnyddio ar un lefel, ond wedyn mae angen i hwnnw gael ei gyflwyno mewn modd y mae pobl yn gallu cael mynediad ato fe. Dwi'n gwybod bod Gwaredu BVD wedi bod yn gwneud tipyn o waith efo EIDCymru ynglŷn ag edrych ar y math yna o access i wybodaeth ynglŷn ag anifeiliaid a herds ac yn y blaen. Ydy hynny'n rhywbeth dŷch chi'n meddwl—dwi'n gwybod ei fod o'n dipyn o undertaking, efallai—fod yna fodd ehangu ar y math yna o beth pan rŷn ni'n edrych ar wahanol gyflyrau ac yn y blaen? Aled.
Okay. Evidently, there is a lot of data, isn't there, that could be used at one level, but then that needs to be presented in a way that people can have access to it. I know that Gwaredu BVD has been doing some work with EIDCymru in terms of looking at access to information and data in terms of animals and herds and so on. Is that something that you think—? I know it's quite an undertaking, but could we expand on that kind of thing when we look at different conditions and diseases? Aled.
Allaf ateb yn Gymraeg?
Can I answer in Welsh?
Dwi'n falch iawn bod yna gymaint o gynlluniau iechyd ar ffermydd ar draws Cymru rŵan, ac mae'r data yna sy'n cael ei gasglu mor bwysig. Dwi'n mawr obeithio, fel y byddwn ni'n datblygu polisi amaeth ar ôl inni adael y gymuned Ewropeaidd rŵan—a dyna ydy'r gwaith rydyn ni eisiau ei wneud—y bydd data yn rhywbeth canolog i beth rydyn ni am ei ddatblygu fel polisi amaeth. Mae o'n ddefnyddiol ar y fferm unigol, ond mae o'n ddefnyddiol i ni fel gwlad. Ac os ydyn ni am dargedu ein cynnyrch a rhoi yr—. Rydyn ni'n falch o beth rydyn ni'n ei gynhyrchu, ond mae'n rhaid inni brofi a dangos yn llawn fod y statws rydyn ni'n ei ddweud sydd gennym ni yna, ac y medrwn ni ei olrhain o drwy'r system. Wedyn, os medrwn ni, felly, annog y casglu gwybodaeth yma fel ei bod hi'n cael ei defnyddio yn ehangach ar draws y wlad.
I'm very pleased that there are so many health schemes on farms across Wales now, and the data that is collected is so important. I'm very hopeful that, as we develop an agricultural policy after leaving the European community—and that's the work that we want to do—that data will be central to what we want to develop as an agricultural policy. It's very useful on individual farms, but it's also useful to us as a country. And if we want to target our produce and—. We're very proud of what we produce, but we have to prove and show that the status that we claim to have is there, and that we can trace that through the system. Therefore, if we can, we should encourage data gathering so that it's used more broadly across the country.
Ie, ie, byddai hynny'n sicr yn rhywbeth y byddwn i'n awyddus i'w weld yn digwydd. Dwi wedi sôn yn benodol am Gwaredu BVD, wrth gwrs, ac mae hwnnw yn dod i ben cyn bo hir fel cynllun penodol. Dwi jest eisiau clywed gennych chi, rili, a fuasech chi'n awyddus i hwnnw barhau fel ein bod ni ddim yn colli'r gwaith sydd wedi cael ei wneud, ein bod ni'n parhau gyda'r enillion hynny? A hefyd, efallai, yn yr un ateb, dwi yn sylwi ac yn ymwybodol iawn fod ymrwymiad wedi cael ei wneud yn y gorffennol gan Lywodraeth Cymru i ariannu cynllun ar sheep scab, a dyw'r arian yna byth wedi cael ei ddelifro, ac mae'n fy nharo i ein bod ni'n colli cyfle i fod yn efelychu rhai o'r buddiannau sydd wedi dod yn sgil Gwaredu BVD yng nghyd-destun sheep scab hefyd.
Yes, that would certainly be something I would be eager to see happening. I've mentioned specifically Gwaredu BVD, and that is coming to an end before long as a specific scheme. I just wanted to hear, really, about whether you'd be eager for that to continue so that we didn't lose the work that's been done and that we retain those benefits. And, in the same answer, I do note and I'm very aware that a commitment has been made in the past by the Welsh Government to fund a sheep scab scheme, and the money hasn't been delivered yet, and it strikes me that we're missing an opportunity to emulate some of the gains that we've seen with Gwaredu BVD in the context of sheep scab too.
Ie, mae'r cynllun yn dod i ben ddiwedd mis Mawrth. Hyd yma, maen nhw wedi testio 30,000 o anifeiliaid ac maen nhw wedi canfod 5,000, dwi'n meddwl, o anifeiliaid PIs. Rŵan, buasai fo'n biti mawr ein bod ni'n colli'r manteision yna rydyn ni wedi'u cael yn barod a'n bod ni ddim yn symud ymlaen rŵan i gynllun gorfodol. Ar ddiwedd y dydd, mae'n rhaid inni gael cynllun felly, lle y gallwch chi brofi eich bod chi wedi profi'ch anifeiliaid, a beth rydych chi'n ei gynnig i'w werthu mewn marchnad, rydych chi'n gallu dangos yn glir fod yr anifail yma wedi cael ei brofi a'i fod o'n glir. Mi fuasai hynny yn rhywbeth gwerthfawr iawn inni. Wedyn, mi allwn ni gael gwaredu BVD yn gyfan gwbl. Os collwn ni'r cyfle, mae gen i ofn y gallwn ni golli'r manteision rydyn ni wedi'u cael yn y gorffennol hefyd.
Yes, the scheme is coming to an end in March. So far, they've tested 30,000 animals and they've found 5,000 PI animals. Now, it would be a great pity if we lost those benefits that we've already accrued and if we didn't move forward now to a mandatory scheme. At the end of the day, we have to have a scheme like that, where you can prove that you've tested your animals, and what you're offering for sale in market, you can show clearly that that animal has been tested and is clear. That would be very valuable for us. Then, we could eradicate BVD entirely. If we lose that opportunity, I'm afraid that we could lose those benefits that we'd accrued in the past as well.
Ie. Byddem ni ddim yn cael y gwerth llawn o'r buddsoddiad sydd wedi digwydd. Nick, roeddech chi eisiau ychwanegu rhywbeth.
Yes, and we wouldn't get the full value of the investment that we've made. Nick, you wanted to add something.
Ie. Wrth gwrs, dydyn ni ddim eisiau'r bwlch yna rhwng diwedd y cynllun a chychwyn Deddf sy'n gorfodi pobl i wneud hwnna. Rydyn ni eisiau cymaint o bobl i fanteisio o'r pres sydd ar gael yn y cynllun datblygu gwledig cyn ein bod ni'n ei wneud o'n orfodol iddyn nhw gydymffurfio â rheolau BVD.
O ran y pres yna sydd ar gael, hefyd mae'n bwysig efallai cyfeirio at y pres AMR. Rydych chi wedi sôn am gynllun sheep scab, ond mae yna gynllun AMR, ac efallai ein bod ni bach yn flin ei fod o wedi dod allan o nunlle, a'n bod ni ddim yn gwybod ei fod o'n mynd i ddod a'i fod o ddim wedi cael ei drafod â'r diwydiant, ond yn gyffredinol, dwi'n meddwl ei fod o'n beth i'w groesawu. Ond byddwn i'n licio gweld y cynllun sheep scab yn cael ei ail-lansio yn ogystal â chael yr un AMR. Byddai fo'n siomedig iawn i feddwl bod hwnna wedi mynd â phres y cynllun sheep scab ar ôl cymaint o wythnosau o waith, wythnosau a blynyddoedd o waith, a dweud y gwir, sydd wedi mynd mewn iddo fo. Mae fy staff i wedi rhoi llawer iawn o waith mewn iddo fo, a dwi'n gwybod bod staff NFU Cymru a Gelli Aur hefyd wedi buddsoddi cymaint o amser ynddo fo; byddai'n siom mawr i weld hwnna'n cael ei wastraffu.
Yes. Of course, we don't want a gap between the end of the scheme and the commencement of an Act that would force people to do that. We want as many people to take advantage of the funding available in the rural development scheme before we make it mandatory for them to comply with the BVD rules.
In terms of the funding available, it's important to refer to the AMR funding. You've mentioned the sheep scab scheme, but there is an AMR scheme, and maybe we're quite disappointed that it came out of nowhere, and we didn't know it was coming and it wasn't discussed previously with the industry, but generally, I think it's something to be welcomed. But I'd like to see the sheep scab scheme being relaunched as well as having the AMR scheme. It would be very disappointing to think that that has taken the funding from the sheep scab scheme after so many weeks of work, the weeks and years of work that have gone into that. My staff have done a lot of work on it, and I know that the staff of NFU Wales and Gelli Aur as well have also invested a lot of time in it; it would be a great disappointment to see that being wasted.
Ie, a bod y pris wedi'i ymrwymo ddwy flynedd yn ôl a'n bod ni'n dal i aros i hwnnw gael ei ddefnyddio. Ocê, mae yna gwestiynau, dwi'n credu, gennym ni fel pwyllgor i ofyn ynglŷn â pham bod hynny ddim wedi digwydd.
Dŷn ni wedi trafod dipyn yn gynharach ar fewnforion a'r risg, efallai, sy'n dod y sgil mewnforio, ond dydw i ddim yn gwybod os oes gennych chi rywbeth i ychwanegu i hynny, i'r pwyntiau sydd wedi cael eu gwneud. Nick.
Yes, and that the funding was committed two years ago and we're still waiting for it to be used. Okay, there are questions, I think, that we have to ask as a committee about why that hasn't happened.
We discussed earlier imports and the risk, perhaps, that emanates from imports, but I don't know whether you have anything to add on that topic. Nick.
Diolch, Llyr. Mae yna bryder mawr ynglŷn â cholli mynediad at systemau Ewrop, yn fy marn i. Mae'r Food and Veterinary Office yn mynd allan i'r gwledydd mae gan Ewrop gytundebau efo nhw, ac maen nhw'n treulio wythnosau yn mynd i ffermydd, yn mynd i ladd-dai, yn mynd i broseswyr ac yn y blaen, i wneud yn siŵr eu bod nhw'n cydymffurfio efo rheolau traceability, rheolau prosesu bwyd ac ati, i sicrhau bod pethau fel clwy'r traed a'r genau ddim yn diweddu fyny yn y bwyd sy'n cael ei fewnforio i mewn i Ewrop. A phryder sydd gyda ni—a rydyn ni wedi'i godi efo Llywodraeth San Steffan llawer o weithiau—yw ein bod ni ddim yn ymwybodol o rywbeth sydd yn mynd i fod mor rhugl â hynny o ran anfon pobl i wledydd eraill i sicrhau bod y cadwyni bwyd yn fanna, a'r cadwyni sydd yn diweddu fyny ar ein platiau ni yn y fan yma, ddim yn mynd i fygwth iechyd a lles ein hanifeiliaid ni.
Thank you, Llyr. There is great concern about losing access to European systems, in my opinion. The Food and Veterinary Office goes out to countries that Europe has agreements with, and they spend weeks going to farms, going to abattoirs, going to processors and so forth, to ensure that they do comply with the traceability rules, the rules on food processing and so on, to ensure that things like food and mouth disease don't end up in the food that's imported into Europe. And a concern that we have—and we've raised this with the Westminster Government many times—is that we're not aware of anything that's going to be as thorough as that in terms of sending people to other countries to ensure that the food chains there, and the food chains that end up on our plates here, aren't going to imperil the health and well-being of our animals.
Mae hwnna yn bwynt pwysig. Ocê, diolch.
So, mae rheoliadau neu reoli symudiad anifeiliaid hefyd, wrth gwrs, yn destun rŷn ni wedi'i gyffwrdd arno fe yn y sesiwn wythnos diwethaf, a dwi jest eisiau gofyn: i ba raddau ydych chi'n credu bod y rheolau standstill ar gyfer da byw yn dal i fod yn gymesur ac yn effeithiol mewn atal cyflyrau gwahanol ymhlith anifeiliaid? Aled.
That's a very important point. Thank you.
So, the regulations or the rules on the movements of animals are also, of course, a subject that we touched on last week, and I just wanted to ask: to what extent are the standstill rules for livestock still proportionate and effective in terms of preventing diseases among different types of animals? Aled.
Dwi'n meddwl ei fod o'n bwysig ein bod ni'n ei gynnal o, oherwydd dwi'n ffermio mewn ardal lle mae'r lefel afiechyd TB, er enghraifft, yn isel iawn. Ond, er hynny, rydyn ni wedi gweld yn ddiweddar fod yr achosion wedi codi. Mi fuasai fo'n beth annoeth iawn inni lacio, ar hyn o bryd, y rheolau chwe diwrnod tra bod yna, yn amlwg, symudiadau wedi digwydd sydd wedi dod yn sgil bod y profion yn aneffeithiol. Nes bod y prawf rydyn ni'n gallu ei wneud cyn symud anifeiliaid yn gwella, wel, mi fuasai fo'n beth peryg iawn inni lacio ar hynny. Dwi'n falch bod yna gymaint o ffermydd sydd yn defnyddio llefydd i roi anifeiliaid ar wahân mewn isolation units neu quarantine units, ac mae hynny'n beth pwysig iawn inni gynnal. Dydy'r frwydr yma ddim drosodd, gwaetha'r modd.
I think it's important that we do maintain it, because I farm in an area where the level of TB, for example, is very low. However, we have seen recently that the cases have risen. It would be very unwise to relax, at present, the six-day rule while it's obvious that there have been movements that have come in the wake of ineffective testing. So, until the test that we do before moving animals improves, well, it would be very risky for us to relax that system. I'm pleased that there are so many farms using places to keep animals separate, in quarantine units or isolation units, and that's something that's very important for us to maintain. This battle isn't over, unfortunately.
Ond gyda'r unedau isolation yna, mae hynny'n rhoi rhywfaint o hyblygrwydd, onid ydy, o dan yr amgylchiadau?
But with the isolation units, that gives some kind of flexibility, doesn't it, in the circumstances?
Ydy. Ac fel roedd Nick yn sôn hefyd, wyddoch chi, rydyn ni wedi gweld yn y gorffennol Schmallenberg a bluetongue, er enghraifft. Mae o'n bryder ar hyn o bryd fod y llefydd i archwilio anifeiliaid a allai fod yn dod drosodd ddim yna ar hyn o bryd. Mae hynny'n ofid i mi. Mae yna gymaint o bethau sydd ar newid ar hyn o bryd efo Brexit, ond, yn anffodus, dydyn nhw ddim wedi sefydlu'r llefydd i archwilio'r anifeiliaid yma.
Yes. And as Nick mentioned, we've seen, in the past, Schmallenberg and bluetongue emerging, for example. It's a concern at present that the places to examine the animals that could come over are not there at the moment. That's a concern for me. There are so many things that are changing at present with Brexit, but, unfortunately, they haven't established those places to examine these animals.
Nick wants to come in as well.
Thank you, Chairman.
Buaswn i'n dweud nad ydw i'n anghytuno efo Aled o gwbl, ond mae yna le—. Mae'n lletchwith braidd imi achos mae Undeb Amaethwyr Cymru yn y broses o ymgynghori efo'r aelodaeth ynglŷn â hyn wedi inni dderbyn cynnig o un o'n siroedd. Ond, yn sicr, mae yna le i adolygu'r rheolau i wneud yn siŵr eu bod nhw'n gweithio. Byddwn i'n meddwl bod yna le i, efallai, wneud y cyfnod yn hirach fel bod pobl yn gallu delio'n well efo fo. Mae angen y dystiolaeth i ddangos bod hynny ddim yn mynd i'n bygwth ni—felly codi'r chwe diwrnod i 12, er enghraifft. Rydyn ni'n gwybod eu bod nhw'n gwneud pethau tipyn yn wahanol yn yr Alban hefyd. Mae angen ystyried beth maen nhw'n ei wneud yn yr Alban, efallai, a beth mae Lloegr yn ystyried ei wneud hefyd, yn hytrach na jest dal ymlaen i rywbeth sydd wedi'i seilio ar dystiolaeth sydd erbyn hyn yn 15 i 20 mlynedd oed. Felly, mae'n rhaid inni ei adolygu o yn aml iawn, achos mae'r chwe diwrnod yn lletchwith, lletchwith iawn ar rai adegau o'r flwyddyn i rai ffermwyr, yn enwedig ffermwyr defaid ar ddiwedd yr haf ac yn yr hydref.
O ran y quarantine units, byddwn i'n dweud bod yna gwestiynau mawr yn fanna. Rydyn ni wedi symud o un sefyllfa lle roedd gennym ni un system i sefyllfa lle mae gennym ni ychydig iawn o'r rhain sydd mewn lle, ychydig o gannoedd os ydw i'n cofio'n iawn—dydw i heb weld y ffigurau diweddaraf. Felly mae yna rywbeth yn bod efo hynny. Roedd yna gyfle enfawr inni fel diwydiant, fel Llywodraeth Cymru ac fel gwlad i wella lles ac iechyd ein hanifeiliaid trwy ddefnyddio system ar ein ffermydd ni, ac mae'r nifer sydd wedi penderfynu cymryd yr opsiwn yna i fyny yn ganran isel iawn. Dydy hynny ddim yn beth da o gwbl. Mae hwnna, yn fy marn i, achos bod Llywodraeth Cymru ddim wedi gwrando ar y diwydiant ynglŷn â'r rheolau sydd ynghlwm â'r system o quarantine units.
I would say that I don't disagree with what Aled said, but there's room—. It's a little awkward for me because the FUW is in the process of consulting with members about this after we received a proposal from one of our counties. But, certainly, there's scope to review the rules to ensure that they do work properly. I would think that there is scope, perhaps, to make the period longer so that people can deal better with that situation. We need the evidence to show that that isn't going to pose a threat—so, increasing the six days to 12 days, perhaps. We know that they do things differently in Scotland as well. We need to consider what they're doing in Scotland, perhaps, and what England's considering doing as well, rather than just retaining something that's based on evidence that is 15 to 20 years old. So, we need to review it on a regular basis, because the six days is very awkward at certain times of the year for some farmers, particularly sheep farmers at the end of the summer and in the autumn.
In terms of the quarantine units, I would say there are major questions to be answered there. We've moved from a situation where we had one system to one where that we have very few of these in place, a few hundred if I remember correctly—I haven't seen the most recent figures. So, there's something wrong there. There was a major opportunity for us as an industry, as Welsh Government and as a nation to improve the well-being and health of our animals by using them on our farms, and the number that have decided to take that option is a very low percentage. That's not a good thing at all, and in my opinion, that is because the Welsh Government hasn't listened to the industry about the rules that are tied to the system of quarantine units.
Achos mi gyflwynwyd yr unedau mewn ymateb i'r ffaith bod yna ofid a chwynion difrifol ynglŷn ag oblygiadau'r rheol standstill chwe diwrnod. Beth rydych chi'n dweud, felly, yw bod beth sydd wedi cael ei fabwysiadu ddim rili yn delifro beth ddylai fe ei wneud, neu ddim yn gweithio fel y dylai fe.
Because the units were introduced in response to the fact that there were serious concerns and complaints about the implications of the six-day standstill rule. You're saying that what has been adopted doesn't really deliver what it should, or isn't working as it should.
Ie, ac roedd o'n gyfle nid dim ond i bobl ddal i werthu ac yn y blaen tu fewn i'r chwe diwrnod, os liciwch chi, ond hefyd i ddechrau mynd i'r arfer o roi anifeiliaid i mewn i'r fath yma o system. Mae'r rhan fwyaf ohonom ni yn gwneud hynny, ond mae yna ganran sydd ddim. Roedd o'n gyfle i'w gael o fel rhywbeth naturiol y byddai rhywun yn ei wneud, ond fel mae'n troi allan, ychydig o gannoedd o bobl sydd wedi penderfynu talu'r cannoedd a buddsoddi'r llawer mwy na hynny i gael y pethau yma. Mae'r rheolau yn bethau sydd jest ddim yn arferol ar y rhan fwyaf o ffermydd Cymru.
Yes, and it was an opportunity not only for people to still sell and so on within the six days, if you like, but also to start getting into the habit of putting these animals in this system. The majority of us do do this, but there's a percentage who don't. It was an opportunity for us to have it as a natural thing that a person would do, but as it turns out, there are only a few hundred people who have decided to put the hundreds of pounds in and have invested a lot more than that to have this system in place. The rules are things that just aren't a normality on the majority of farms in Wales.
Dwi'n deall y pwynt. Hynny yw, mi ddylai fod yn norm, nid yn eithriad, mewn ffordd, ontefe?
Yes, I understand the point. It should be a norm, not an exception.
Mi ddaru ni gydweithio fel diwydiant gyda'r Llywodraeth, oherwydd roedden ni'n sicr o'r farn bod angen bod yna ddiogelwch wrth symud anifeiliaid. Ond, yn wir, gwaetha'r modd, pan ddaeth rheolau'r quarantine units allan, roedd y caethiwed—wel, roedden nhw'n anymarferol, gwaetha'r modd. Nid yn unig hynny, roedd y costau—dros 18 mis oedd y drwydded ar gael, ac ar ôl gwneud y gwaith hwnnw pam na allai fo gael ei gadw am bum, chwe mlynedd hyd yn oed? Rydw i'n meddwl bod hynny wedi rhoi rhai pobl i ffwrdd oddi ar y syniad.
We did collaborate as an industry with the Government, because we're certainly of the opinion that there was a need for security and safety in moving animals. But, unfortunately, when the quarantine unit rules came out, they were impractical. Not only that, but the costs—the licence was for 18 months, and after doing that, why couldn't it be kept for five or six years? I think that that did put some people off the idea.
Ocê. Wel, mae ymarferoldeb rheoliadau'r Llywodraeth yn rhywbeth sydd wedi codi ei ben yn y 24 awr diwethaf, ond awn ni ddim ar ôl y sgwarnog yna—ddim nawr, beth bynnag. Diolch, Gadeirydd.
Okay. Well, the practicality of Welsh Government regulations is something that has arisen in the last 24 hours, but we won't go after that—not now, anyway. Thank you, Chair.
Can I thank our three witnesses? Before we come to an end—I think we've covered a large number of areas, and we've had lots of different questions. Really, over to you—and I'll start with Catherine—is there anything regarding animal health and disease prevention you think we ought to know, i.e. the questions we failed to ask?
Goodness. There's an awful lot that has been discussed in this last hour that is outside of RUMA's remit, so I'm not going to comment—. I think, as far as RUMA is concerned, we need to remain evidence based, we need to improve our diagnostics, we need to make sure that we have all of the information at hand so that farmers and vets can make informed, well-chosen decisions, and that probably means that we need to continue looking at how we can invest in our farms, in our veterinary services, as I say, in our pharmaceutical practices, so that we have all of that information at hand. So, that would probably be my final plea.
Nick, do you want to make a final comment?
I wouldn't want to disagree with that. I think that's an excellent place to finish. It absolutely summarises everything that needs to be done.
Thank you. Aled.
This is a climate change committee, as it's part of your title, and I just want to stress, really, how much of a drain on carbon intensity animal diseases are. Obviously, 10,000 cattle slaughtered annually from TB is a massive biological loss, but it's a climate change loss likewise, and anything that impacts on animal health will impact on the intensity of carbon needed for those animals. So, fertility, growth rates, and food conversion efficiency are all impacted, and I think there are massive gains on climate change issues that we can make with improvement in animal health. Thank you.
Thank you very much for coming and giving evidence. A transcript will be available. I'll tell you what I tell everybody; check it. The only thing that ever goes wrong with me is if I move my head occasionally and words get missed out because I'm not talking towards the microphone, or I've started before the microphone is ready. So, please check it for that. Thank you very much. We're very grateful for you coming along and giving us your time, and answering a whole range of questions, which varied quite dramatically. Thank you very much. We are all very, very grateful. Thank you.
Taking us on to item 4, items to note, 4.1 and 4.2. Are we prepared to accept?
bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42 (vi) a (ix).
that the committee resolves to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting in accordance with Standing Order 17.42 (vi) and (ix).
Cynigiwyd y cynnig.
Can I move a motion under Standing Order 17.42 (vi) and (ix) to resolve to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting? Is that agreed? Okay.
Derbyniwyd y cynnig.
Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 15:56.
The public part of the meeting ended at 15:56.