Angry farmers walk out of aid meeting with minister

Welsh farmers whose businesses have been jeopardised by the freak March blizzards walked out of a heated meeting with Wales’ farm minister after demanding his resignation.

Alun Davies faced hundreds of angry farmers at a meeting in north Wales, one of the regions worst hit by snow and strong winds.

Many of the farmers are struggling financially after thousands of their sheep and cattle were buried in snow but the Welsh government has remained steadfast in its refusal to directly compensate them for their losses.

During the meeting in Bala on 9 May a delegation of farmers led by Denbighshire sheep producer Glyn Jones presented the minister with a letter calling on him to resign.

Mr Jones, a sheepdog trials champion, claimed the Welsh government had failed the farming industry because it had not matched the aid packages of the devolved administrations in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

In an act of protest, Mr Jones walked out of the meeting and was followed by many other farmers, including Aled Jones, whose farm the minister had visited three weeks ago.

Mr Jones, who lost 200 pregnant ewes in the snow, said that during that visit the minister had discussed a range of options including providing financial aid for restocking.

“I went to the meeting hoping and praying that he would keep to his word but he offered us absolutely nothing,” he said.

“Our income this year is going to be negligible and we will struggle next year too as I have so few ewe lamb replacements. I recently invested in land to secure a future for our four young children but the minister’s inaction is effectively denying Welsh farming a decent future.”

Alun Davies had called the meeting in a bid to engage with farmers but he was repeatedly booed when he attempted to explain why he believed the government’s reaction had been a fair one.

He had given farmers permission to bury dead stock on their land and had donated £500,000 to farming charities to help with fodder shortages and for pastoral support and advice.

Although many insisted the burial derogation had been hampered by red tape, Mr Davies said these regulations had been necessary. If farmers had not had written confirmation that fallen stock collectors could not get to farms they would have been fined under European legislation, he said.

The minister has repeatedly stated that if he compensated farmers, it would be unfair on other sectors in Wales, which are also under financial pressure.

But farmers suggested that the loss of Wales’ mining industry was a reason why Wales was struggling economically and feared farming could become another casualty unless the government stepped in to help.

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