LEADERS OF both NFU Cymru and the Farmers Union of Wales are remarkably upbeat about the industry‘s medium-term prospects.

“Having single farm payments based on an historic model gives us one good reason to be optimistic, and we have also seen improved returns in all sectors except dairying,” said Gareth Vaughan, FUW president.

“Farmers are a pretty resilient lot who want to go on producing food, so I do not expect, as some have suggested, that many will reduce output or get out of the job.”

“But I am deeply concerned about the reluctance of farmers‘ sons and daughters to come into the industry, and the lack of encouragement given to new entrants.”

He would like the Welsh Assembly to help family farmers become more efficient by putting extra money into its Farming Connect initiative, and he wants increased funding for the Tir Gofal agri-environment scheme.

“There are many big challenges ahead, including the impact of ending the over 30-month scheme on the beef market. I am pressing ministers to get exports moving properly before it happens.”

NFU Cymru president Peredur Hughes insists that most of his members see CAP reform as a huge chance to become more efficient.

“They realise that they have to look 10 or 15 years ahead when the industry’s support payments will be even smaller and they will have to depend on the market-place,” says Mr Hughes.

“When they get their SFP cheques it will be time to sit down and work out whether their businesses could survive without it. If the answer is no, the next question is, what changes can be made to make it possible?”

He is worried about the loss of 500 Welsh dairy farmers over the past two years, but, while he expects further casualties, he is confident that the sector will be back in the black in 18 months‘ time.

Because Welsh lamb has a good image on European markets, producers should benefit from the reduction in UK sheep numbers during foot-and-mouth, especially as market development and promotion is now handled by one agency.

Mr Hughes wants to see suckler cow numbers maintained in less favoured areas, possibly through a targeted agri-environment payment.

Both presidents claim that their unions are gaining members as farmers seek information about the nuts and bolts of CAP reform, and neither of them appears to be in the mood for talking about the creation of a single Welsh union.