Welsh farmers boycott minister’s visit

Welsh livestock farmers have boycotted an environment booklet launch by the government minister responsible for the bovine TB eradication programme in Wales.

Environment minister John Griffiths was at West Orielton Farm, near Pembroke, Pembrokeshire, to launch an NFU Cymru document on why farming matters to the Welsh environment.

NFU Cymru president, Ed Bailey, told the minister some livestock farmers had felt unable to attend because of Mr Griffiths’ decision not to sanction a trial cull of badgers in Pembrokeshire. “Recent decisions affecting Pembrokeshire do smart somewhat,” he said.

Mr Griffiths was unperturbed, although he did admit there were many difficult issues for livestock farmers in Wales. “We have to work our way through them, many of them are long-term challenges that can’t be resolved quickly or easily,” he said.

Focusing on the NFU Cymru document, the minister said farmers made a significant contribution to the environment of Wales.

“An awful lot of Wales is farmland, so it is absolutely crucial we get good environmental practice on that land,” he said.

He described public access to land as a “matter of balance” and said there had been big steps taken forward on this issue. “It is a much better picture now, the balance of engagement between urban and rural,” he said.

West Orielton Farm, he added, was a good example of a farm that successfully combined the need to produce food and engage with the local community.

In Wales, 3,120km of hedges and 325km of stone walls and other traditional field boundaries have been restored since 1999 through the Tir Gofal agri-environment scheme.

Ed Bailey said it was paramount that the scheme’s successor, Glastir, was made workable for farmers. “Then of course it will work for the environment and for the government,” he said.

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