Call for co-op debate
ALUN Michael, First Secretary in the Welsh Assembly, has been challenged to debate in public the proposals for a Welsh livestock co-operative.
The call for a head-to-head discussion came from the projects strongest opponent, Lib-Dem peer Lord Geraint of Ponterwyd, after Mr Michael criticised his "very negative approach" to the plan.
In a letter, Mr Michael said farmers, businesses in the auction and livestock sectors, and other locally based co-ops were interested in the possibility of working with an all-Wales co-operative. He acknowledged that similar schemes had failed, which was why a robust feasibility study was being conducted.
But Lord Geraint, patron of the Wales Livestock Auctioneers Association, responded that the new co-op would threaten the viability of traditional livestock markets, which had to be kept going to stop farmers becoming the servants of supermarkets.
"Instead of trying to create cushy jobs for themselves, at the expense of the agriculture industry in Wales, Alun Michael and his colleagues should be concentrating on urgently solving the current crisis," said Lord Geraint.
A spokesman for the proposed co-op said more than 1100 farmers had responded favourably to a mail shot, the independent feasibility study was underway and a business plan could be ready after Christmas.
"Some auctioneers are now on board because they see procuring stock through a co-op as a potential business opportunity," he added. *