23 January 2001
Let us run our farming, say Welsh

By Johann Tasker

WELSH farmers have called for agricultural policy to be devolved to Wales so that the National Assembly in Cardiff can better tackle the farming crisis.

The Farmers Union of Wales made the demand in a “wish list” as Assembly Members started a debate on the future direction of the Welsh farming industry.

The difference between farming in Wales and England was central to the unions message, FUW president Bob Parry said on Tuesday (23 January).

“Now that we have a devolved Assembly in Cardiff, it is inappropriate to try and enforce farming policies on an England-and-Wales basis.

“Farming in Wales has its own unique opportunities and problems. The vast majority of holdings are traditional family farms.”

Mr Parry said the Assembly must be prepared to ensure that the needs of Welsh farmers are put above the needs of other British producers.

They must not have to compromise to meet the demands of farmers in other parts of the UK, particularly the large arable farmers of England, who are a world away from the realities of life on a Welsh farm.”

Mr Parry said Wales was losing “an entire generation” of farmers because there is virtually no help to give young people a leg on to the farming ladder.

The latest Assembly figures show that 3800 people left the farming industry in Wales last year – a rate of 73 job losses every week.

FARMERS WEEKLY reported last week that the Welsh language faces extinction in many rural areas as farmers move out of the countryside.

A report by Caernarfonshire FUW chairman Glyn Roberts last week claimed that rural businesses, schools, and chapels would also be hit if farming stopped.

At the same time, a union survey has identified that substantial barriers are preventing young people from taking up farming as a career.

Mr Parry said the UK was the only European country not to take advantage of grants to give young farmers a helping hand.

“This is putting our young at a distinct disadvantage,” he said.

The Assembly should call for EU aid to be made available, which could provide a boost for banks to give additional support for young farmers.

Mr Parry said he welcomed the willingness of Welsh rural affairs minister Carwyn Jones to fight for small family farms that dominate Welsh agriculture.

This was demonstrated by winning a better deal in the revised Tir Mynydd scheme and recently announcements revising Beef Special Premium thresholds.

Mr Jones has also indicated his support for a campaign by Welsh farmers to get the Ministry of Defence to buy more British meat for the armed forces.

Mr Parry said that the reform of the European Union sheep meat regime was of crucial importance because there are more than 11 million sheep in Wales.

The Assembly must continue to give full support to the Welsh Food Strategy and its efforts to produce an identifiable brand for Welsh produce, he added.

“It is essential that agricultural policy is formulated in Wales for the good of Welsh agriculture,” said Mr Parry.

“The Assembly must look at every possible means to drag us out of the current crisis, and create a long term strategy to build a secure future.”