Optimism shrinks

Optimism among Welsh farmers has sunk to its lowest ebb, according to a survey carried out by the Farmers’ Union of Wales.

Only 44% of Welsh farmers are optimistic about the future, compared with 60% in 2003.

The FUW appraisal of producers’ opinions, carried out at the Welsh Winter Fair in the last week of November, also indicated that fewer farmers’ children wanted to enter the industry.

The main reason given for the fall from 58% to 44% was farming’s low incomes and lack of financial security.

While 58% of respondents claimed to have invested in farm buildings and machinery over the last five years, only 22% said they were planning to reinvest in their businesses in the near future.

This compared with 52% and 38% in identical surveys in 2002 and 2003.

However, a higher percentage of farmers than in 2003, said the Welsh Assembly was doing a good job for farming.

While just under one-third rated it good compared with 25% in 2003, only 8% rated DEFRA’s performance as good, and 48% claimed it was unacceptable.

Almost 72% of the farmers quizzed wanted more powers to be devolved to Cardiff, and only 2% completely opposed such a move.

Gareth Vaughan, FUW president, responded to the figures indicating confidence was at low ebb by blaming oppressive powers of dairies and supermarkets.

He also cited the Prime Minister’s determination to cut the CAP agricultural budget, and the EU trade commissioner’s approach to the World Trade Talks.

“Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson have done us no favours by talking down the importance of the farming industry,” claimed Mr Vaughan.

He was disappointed but not surprised that so many farmers’ children felt that there was no future for them in farming.

“I hope our politicians take note and take urgent action to remedy the situation.

Young people are the lifeblood of agriculture in this country and we need schemes to encourage them to become farmers.”