24 October 1997

Farmings image must change

One of the most ambitious events ever held by the Wales

Federation of Young Farmers Clubs focused on the image

of farming and its products. Robert Davies reports

THE theme of the combined open day and conference was the contribution young farmers could make towards safeguarding their future prosperity. The conclusion was that they must ensure consumers have an image of an animal welfare conscious and environmentally sensitive industry, marketing safe, high quality products.

"The problems of the last 18 months persuaded our rural affairs committee that we should take a very positive look at improving the industrys image," said Arwyn Davies, chief executive of Wales YFC. "We have to get the general public and consumers on our side, so today we have brought together 60 companies and agencies which can help us decide how."

Many farmers were so despondent about the future of farming that they were actively encouraging sons and daughters to train for other jobs. Membership of Wales YFC had fallen from 10,000 to 6000 over 20 years. But there was still life in the industry and great potential for ensuring YFC members had a bright future.

Wales chairman John Davies, who hosted the event at Pentre Farm, Merthyr Cynog, Powys, said generations of farmers had fed the British people and created the landscape, which they were as determined as environmental organisations were to protect.

The state of the 12,955ha (32,000-acre) Sennybridge military range, which adjoined the farm, was a classic example of what happened when farmers were excluded. A total of 180 families were moved out in 1939 and the area was an environmental disaster compared with identical land that had been farmed.

Paul Loveluck, chief executive of the Countryside Council for Wales, agreed that nature could not be trusted to protect landscape and wildlife habitats. The positive intervention of farmers was essential, and he hoped that agri-environment schemes would give them the financial help needed to deliver environmentally friendly farming systems.

During the conference young farmers were urged to take a lead in giving animal welfare the highest possible priority, and see stockmanship training as a lifetime process. This meant responding to research and development, while paying attention to changing public opinions on the way food was produced.

Arwyn Davies (left) and Paul Loveluck (below) working to a positive image for the industry.

John Davies (far left) said farmers are creators and protectors of the landscape.