Welsh farmers have been urged to answer the thousands of queries that have arisen on single farm payment application forms.

Carwyn Jones, the Welsh Assembly’s minister for rural affairs, told NFU Cymru’s annual conference at Builth Wells that more than 3000 queries remained unanswered.

He said: “It would be a great pity if the ability of the Assembly Government to make payments from December is derailed due to a minority within the farming community not properly responding to queries raised by my officials.”

The Assembly was committed to helping farmers face up to challenges by building understanding between producers and consumers, by developing high-quality produce and new sources of income, and by helping farmers become more sustainable environmentally.

The historically based CAP reform process in Wales aimed to provide the farming community with the maximum flexibility to shape their businesses to the marketplace, and to respond to consumer demand.

While he dismissed claims that CAP payments would not last past 2007 as speculation, he acknowledged that a key debate was under way about the priorities in an expanded EU in 10-15 years’ time.

Mr Jones conceded that many Welsh sheep farmers were concerned about EU demands for identification of individual sheep.

But he insisted that the UK must demonstrate it operated a robust EU-approved ID system to continue exporting.

On bovine TB, the minister promised to consider acting on all recommendations of the TB Action Group, including any based on a current survey of the disease in wildlife.

Nothing was ruled in or out.

The Assembly Government was also committed to encouraging the use of more local produce in schools, hospitals and the public sector.

There had been some notable successes, like getting Welsh beef into every Welsh NHS Trust.

bobdavies@agrinews.fsnet.co.uk