Farming leaders to lobby hard ahead of elections

Farmers’ leaders across Wales intend to pressure the Principality’s politicians on issues affecting agriculture ahead of the Assembly elections.

With the elections due early next year, farmers’ leaders are keen to get a commitment on area payments for less favoured areas, modulation and bovine tuberculosis from politicians as they attend the various events in search of votes.

“We are urging members to exploit every opportunity to lobby on issues of great importance to Welsh farming,” said Mary James, deputy director of NFU Cymru.

“We have certainly not given up hope of persuading assembly members to reject the plan to cut Tir Mynydd payments to 11,000 less favoured area farmers by one third next year as a way to phase out the scheme.

The impact on many farms and the look of countryside would be devastating.”

With no overall Labour majority at the Assembly, Ms James would like Cardiff-based politicians to keep up their opposition to the tabular compensation system for TB reactors, and to fight for the right to decide Welsh modulation rates.

Farmers Union of Wales senior policy adviser Rhian Nowell-Phillips has warned members that modulation could cut single farm payments by up to 20%, with no government match-funding.

She fears that this could leave the New Rural Development Plan under-resourced, limiting the money available for agri-environment and value-adding agri-food projects.

“It would work against every strategy aimed at improving the viability of the farming sector and wider rural economy,” she said.

The FUW will also use the summer to press its opposition to rural affairs minister Carwyn Jones’s decision to target the Tir Gofal agri-environment scheme towards farms with sites of special scientific interest.

Support has come from Elin Jones, Plaid Cymru’s rural affairs shadow minister.

She warned:

“By targeting it to SSSI areas, most parts of Wales may be exempt from seeing environmental, wildlife and landscape gains via Tir Gofal, disadvantaging farmers.”