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Farming

Call for cabinet post for rural economy

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Carwyn’s Cabinet: No farming minister needed?

Carwyn’s Cabinet: No farming minister needed?

THE CLA has called for the creation of a Cabinetlevel Ministerial post in Welsh Government to champion the needs of communities in the Welsh countryside, and to help unlock the potential of rural businesses across Wales.

Appearing at the Welsh Assembly, CLA President Ross Murray, discussed issues affecting the rural economy of Wales with the Assembly’s Enterprise and Business Committee.

The CLA launched its Stan ding Up for Rural Businesses report in January to persuade politicians to unlock the potential of the rural economy.

Ross Murray said: “As the Assembly takes on ever greater powers over the way businesses are taxed and regulated and crucially how our land is managed it is vital that AMs understand and stand up for rural businesses. It is these businesses that are at the heart of the economy, sustain our communities and manage our landscapes.

“The way the Ministerial portfolios are currently structured does not reflect the great importance of the rural economy in Wales.

“The rural economy is so integral to Wales that it should be championed explicitly at the highest level, through a Minister for the Rural Economy as part of The Cabinet, as used to be the case. We are calling on all parties to commit to making this happen post the Welsh Government elections on May 5.”

“This Assembly has made significant decisions on housing, environmental regulation and economic development. As we prepare for a new Assembly term we will be asking politicians to be even more pro-active in ensuring that the policies developed over coming months will truly help unlock the great potential of rural Wales.

“The CLA is committed to standing up for rural Wales, and we are taking these messages to politicians in Cardiff as well as asking them to come and meet with rural business owners up and down the country.”

Through to the Assembly elections in May and beyond, CLA Cymru will be meeting with AMs and policy makers to help ensure the development of a coherent vision for the rural economy that delivers the right outcomes for rural areas.

The absence of a dedicated minister for rural affairs from the Welsh Labour’s last Cabinet has been widely criticised as evidence of its lack of care and understanding for rural issues, despite the importance of the agricultural industry to the Welsh economy.

With Welsh Labour possessing no constituency seats in rural areas, its conduct of government has also been savagely attacked for being concerned more with spending money in its south east Wales and Valleys heartlands than in governing in the interests of the whole of Wales.

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Farming

Wales can lead on net-zero farming

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NFU CYMRU hosted a farm visit for the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Alok Sharma MP, to demonstrate that Welsh farmers are well-placed to deliver on the industry’s net zero ambitions.

The event saw NFU Cymru launch its new document, which sets out that Welsh farmers are part of the solution to climate change.

NFU Cymru President John Davies presented the report to the Secretary of State, who also holds the role of nominated President for COP26, as part of the on farm meeting.

The visit was hosted by NFU Cymru Next Generation Group member Llŷr Jones, whose 1,600-acre sheep, beef and egg farm near Corwen also produces renewable energy to satisfy the farm’s energy needs, exporting the surplus power to the grid.

As part of his visit to Derwydd Farm, Mr Sharma was also able to learn about the scale of work carried out on the farm as part of Welsh Government’s Glastir agri-environment scheme, including creating habitats for wildlife, tree planting, protecting some 30 acres of peatland, hedgerow management and soil and grassland management.

During his visit, the BEIS Secretary planted an apple tree as an example of the environmental work the agricultural sector carries out to sequester carbon, while also providing food and aiding biodiversity.

Speaking after the visit, NFU Cymru President John Davies said: “By focussing on improving farming’s productive efficiency; improving land management and enhancing land use to capture more carbon; and boosting renewable energy and the wider bio-economy, Wales’ farmers will be able to play their part in addressing the issues brought about by climate change. By reducing carbon emissions in these ways farmers are in a strong position to achieve the industry’s goal of achieving net zero by 2040.

“I am thrilled that we were able to welcome the BEIS Secretary, Alok Sharma MP, on farm today to see Llŷr Jones’ exciting and impressive farming enterprise, which has carbon capture and renewable energy at its heart. Llŷr’s farm is just one of a wide network of farms across Wales who are harnessing innovation to reduce emissions and produce climate friendly food. These businesses are net zero leaders not just in the respect of farming, but in a wider business context.”

Alok Sharma, COP26 President and Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said: “I was very pleased to visit Llŷr Jones’ farm and see first-hand the actions being taken to mitigate climate change and support nature on their land.

“I welcome the NFU’s ambitious commitment to reach net zero by 2040, and I look forward to working across governments, business and civil society in the run up to COP26 to raise global commitments to reduce carbon emissions.”

NFU Cymru Next Generation Group member Llŷr Jones added: “I take great pride in the work we do to maintain and enhance the environment, encourage biodiversity and support the local community alongside my core role as a food producer.

“I was pleased to be able welcome the Secretary of State on farm today to show him how we’re always striving to positively influence the carbon impact of our business. I hope Mr Sharma enjoyed his visit to my north Wales hill farm and that what he has seen shows him that our industry has a vital role to play in the climate change challenge now and in the future.”

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Farming

Broadband must reach rural communities

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THE FUW has responded positively to news that there are plans to bring full fibre broadband to an additional three million homes and businesses in some of the UK’s most isolated rural communities, but stresses it must really reach them.

The connection to 3.2 million UK premises, which was given the go-ahead after an Ofcom consultation, is reported to be part of a £12bn investment by Openreach to build full fibre infrastructure to 20 million premises throughout the UK by the end of this decade.

Places set to benefit include Aberystwyth in west Wales, Millom in Cumbria, Thurso in north-east Scotland, and Ballycastle in County Antrim. Openreach is due to publish the full list of the 251 locations, referred to as Area 3, where it will build the new network. Ofcom has estimated there are 9.6 million homes and businesses situated in this final third of the UK.

Responding to the announcement, FUW Ceredigion county chairman Morys Ioan said: “The last few months have served as a stark example of how vital connectivity is. Our own Union staff, many of whom live in rural areas, have been working from home and we have continued to assist members with digital paperwork for their farm businesses. Without an internet connection this would not have been possible.

“It is really good news that this extra funding is being directed at rural communities but we must make sure that it really does go to those premises who currently are not benefitting from full fibre broadband.

“Our rural towns and villages have been left behind in the race for better and faster connectivity and it is critical for the competitiveness and viability of rural businesses, and the economy, that tangible improvements are made now.

“The FUW has stressed on many occasions that those without a connection cannot diversify their businesses, that they cannot support their children’s education and that they cannot connect readily with Government programmes for advice and support payments as they are mandated to do.”

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Farming

Farmers and Police cooperate on modern slavery

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POLICE has worked in partnership with rural and farming unions to support a national campaign, aiming to create a picture of the nature and scale of modern slavery and human trafficking in communities.

Dyfed-Powys Police in Project Aidant, led by the National Crime Agency, also looked at the impact COVID-19 legislation and restrictions on travel has had on the availability of labour in the agricultural industry.

Detective Chief Inspector Anthony Evans said: “Dyfed-Powys Police, and our rural teams in particular, engaged with the agricultural industry and raise awareness of the ethical use of labour and avoidance of labour exploitation, as well as asking for any concerns to be raised with us or the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority.

“We also worked with branches of the National Farmers’ Union and Farmers’ Union of Wales to circulate information about modern slavery and how to spot the signs to their members.
“Forced and compulsory labour is very often a harmful and hidden crime and its victims may be especially isolated and hidden from view during the COVID-19 outbreak. However, help and support is available.”

Although the true scale of modern slavery and human trafficking is difficult to measure, it is understood that the number of identified victims is increasing. Many victims work in the construction industry, in agriculture, in the sex industry, and in places like nail bars or car washes, while a growing number are forced into criminality by their exploiters. Children are found working in these situations, as well as in sexual slavery.

Many victims have been trafficked from overseas – frequently from Eastern Europe, South East Asia, and Africa – and their exploitation often begins en route. However, the latest figures show British nationals make up the largest single group of those victimised.

The current Project Aidant aimed to identify and respond to the changing threat picture as a result of COVID-19.

DCI Evans said: “It is almost certain that restrictions on movement and activities are having a notable impact on the modern slavery and human trafficking threat in the UK.

“There have been anecdotal reports of displacement from public-facing sectors that have been closed as a result of government measures, such as car washes and nail bars, to high-risk sectors of agriculture and the wider food supply chain.

“We hope to gain a better understanding of the threat, and ultimately to protect vulnerable victims of slavery and human trafficking, who are often hidden in plain sight.”

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