15 May 2001
Plaid farm policy ‘based on quality’

By Robert Davies, Wales correspondent

PLAID CYMRU pledged to promote a greater understanding between urban and rural communities as it launched its election manifesto in Wales.

Past governments have been unwilling to support farmers in times of crisis, says the document, adding that policies should be based on quality not price.

The manifesto also calls for better understanding between environmentalists and farmers, insisting that environment protection should permeate all policy.

Farmings future must be considered within an integrated rural development framework which respects the environment but enables diversification, it says.

Plaid Cymru won 17 out of 60 seats when the new Welsh Assembly came into being in 1999, winning about one in three votes.

The party says it will encourage local food processing, including small abattoirs, and aid the promotion of alternative energy crops on farms.

“Farmers need every opportunity, help and encouragement to convert to organic, and to join agri-environmental schemes,” adds the manifesto.

Plaid Cymru supports reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and pledges to strengthen agri-environmental schemes such as Tir Gofal.

But any changes to the CAP must be introduced gradually and with consideration for the social and economic consequences of reform, it says.

Financial support for farmers must be better targeted so it continues to guarantee food supplies, support rural areas and boost the environment.

But Welsh farmers must not lose out from decoupling farm subsidies from food production and linking them with environmental gain, the party adds.

Funding must also be found for an early retirement scheme for farmers who are ready to quit after years of falling incomes, the manifesto says.

Aid must also be available for new entrants essential for a viable agriculture.

The manifesto cites the Countryside Act and hunting bill as examples of how Labour has failed to understand the concerns of country people.

It calls for a town and country pact, saying that policies should promote a better understanding between urban and rural communities.

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