16 July 1999

Stop squabbling, Welsh unions told

THE Farmers Union of Wales has been urged to set aside differences with the NFU to improve prospects for rural Wales.

Christine Gwyther, the Welsh assemblys farm minister, says resolving the real problems facing Welsh agriculture requires all with an interest to pull together.

"The assembly has taken the lead in approaching issues like beef-on-the-bone in a co-operative and inclusive way," said Ms Gwyther after hearing the FUW was belatedly prepared to accept her appointment.

"In that context, the continued rivalry of the FUW and NFU is deeply regrettable and I hope they will be able to channel their energies into a more productive approach," she said.

While the two sides may be able to present a united front at political talks on some issues, the chance of formal co-operation is remote. The latest attempt to bring the two organisations closer, which was led by Young Farmers Club leader John Davies and members of the Future Farmers of Wales organisation, was rejected by the FUW.

The ministers call for conciliation is less likely to be heeded, following the defection of Mary James, the FUWs director of policy, to the rival union.

This week president Bob Parry again insisted that the FUW was the true voice of Welsh agriculture and not one muted by English dominance.