Editor’s view: Political reset gives hope to Welsh farmers

It was 120 years ago that the Welsh National Agricultural Society was born in Committee Room 12 in the Houses of Parliament.

This week, that poignant milestone has been honoured with a ceremony in that very same room.

The charity, which adopted its current name of the Royal Welsh Agricultural Society (RWAS) in 1922, is of course the group that organises the Royal Welsh Show and Welsh Winter Fair.

See also: Thousands of frustrated Welsh farmers descend on Cardiff

About the author

Andrew Meredith
Farmers Weekly editor
Andrew has been Farmers Weekly editor since January 2021 after doing stints on the business and arable desks. Before joining the team, he worked on his family’s upland beef and sheep farm in mid Wales and studied agriculture at Aberystwyth University. In his free time he can normally be found continuing his research into which shop sells London’s finest Scotch egg.
Read more articles by Andrew Meredith

There was a desire among farmers back then, as there is now, to come together to continuously improve their industry and show consumers the very best that agriculture has to offer.

That means celebrating and learning from tradition, but also a commitment to continually evolve what we do and how we do it.

That is the combination that has maintained RWAS as one of the pre-eminent show organisations across that incredible span of time.

It is in this spirit the protests that took place in Cardiff this week should also be seen.

Farmers are not protesting in order to stay stuck in the past. They are fighting for a playing field upon which they are given a fair chance to succeed.

But the unholy trinity of grievances – the proposed Sustainable Farming Scheme, a forthcoming countrywide nitrate vulnerable zone, and a lack of action on bovine TB – threaten that balance.

This week’s demonstration in Cardiff was a remarkable display of opposition to those policies.

But so far, it has only served to highlight how much the Labour government, propped up by Plaid Cymru in a co-operation agreement, would have to pivot to deliver that.

However, a reset is coming. On 16 March, a new first minister will be announced to replace the outgoing Mark Drakeford.

The cabinet reshuffle that will most likely follow may well see the rural affairs brief handed to someone other than the incumbent Lesley Griffiths.

After that, the response to the final consultation on the Sustainable Farming Scheme will have to be grappled with.

It is easier to contemplate the new leadership being able to sharply deviate from the actions of their predecessors than it is to see the current team being willing to sanction a humiliating U-turn.

Farmers must do more than they are doing now to protect the environment and help policymakers meet the testing targets they have set for themselves.

But it cannot, and will not, be delivered against a backdrop of mass business failure.

There is a huge prize on offer here for the politicians that can get this right: laying the foundations of farming for the next 120 years.

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