3 March 2000

Rebuild call for Welsh farming

WALES needs a new body dedicated to the rebuilding of rural communities shattered by the farming crisis, says farmer and Welsh Assembly member Mick Bates.

Countryside people felt that since the Development Board for Rural Wales was merged with the Welsh Development Agency nobody cared, or was committed to helping them by providing advice on EU cash, including Objective 1 and 2 funding.

Individual farmers and rural entrepreneurs struggled to understand what help was available, and to cope with complex application forms.

Mr Bates told journalists visiting his Powys farm that a pro-active rural advisory agency had become essential.

"We need a body that understands what is required to regenerate rural communities, and can identify and access the full range of advice and financial help available," he said.

Ideally, it should be an awarding body with assembly funds to provide enterprise start-up grants that could help to stop the exodus of young people from the rural heartland.

Mr Bates, a first generation farmer, announced that he was handing over his 85ha (210-acre) beef and sheep farm at Llanfair Caereinion to his wife Buddig and son Daniel to concentrate on politics.

In contrast, he estimated that economics dictated that 20% of farmers in Wales had no choice about quitting.

"Even third and fourth generation people are leaving the land because they cannot see a fair return for a lifetime of toil.

"This is an issue that must be addressed and solutions found or everything we love and cherish about rural Wales will be gone within a generation or two."

Rural advisory agency essential.