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Farming

Farmers’ manifestos stress importance of rural economy

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Llyr Gruffydd with Elin Jones, Simon Thomas and Adam Price: Launching Plaid’s rural manifesto

Llyr Gruffydd with Elin Jones, Simon Thomas and Adam Price: Launching Plaid’s rural manifesto

THE FUW’s Manifesto for the Welsh Assembly elections could not be clearer.

The contribution of agriculture to the economy of our rural areas and Wales as a whole cannot be underestimated; Welsh Farm Business Survey figures show that, despite low profitability, a typical farm can annually contribute between £100,000 and £250,000 to the wider economy.

Yet such direct contributions are just the tip of the iceberg; our food and drinks industry is worth £5.2 billion to the Welsh economy, and agriculture has been identified as the most significant contributor to an estimated £1.9 billion in ‘wildlife related activity’ – while the contribution of generations of farming families to the unique landscape and culture so important to our tourism industry is clear to all.

Put simply, farming is the bedrock of our rural communities, without which vast direct and indirect contributions to Wales’ economy as a whole would disappear.

And yet farming and rural affairs have often been perceived to be of little interest to a Welsh Labour government, which draws its strength from Wales’ former industrial heartlands around the south Wales valleys.

In a recent debate in Ceredigion County Council, many members expressed agreement with the view advanced by Cllr Paul Hinch, who said: “This last Welsh Government has no about rural life in Wales or anywhere else.

PARTY POLICIES AND PLEDGES

Certainly Welsh Conservatives and Plaid Cymru have both carved out distinctive positions on rural policy which point out a relative policy vacuum on rural affairs in Welsh Labour’s Assembly election manifesto. Not a single one of Labour’s six ‘key pledges’ relates to farming, other than tangentially, and a sweep of Welsh Labour’s website shows not a single announcement in relation to initiatives to help farmers under threat.

By way of contrast, Plaid Cymru has prepared a specific agricultural manifesto. Shadow Minister for Sustainable Communities, Farming and Food, Llyr Gruffydd, launched his party’s Agriculture Manifesto on Tuesday (April 12), vowing that a Plaid Cymru government would be a strong voice for Wales’ rural communities.

The plans included measures to address Labour’s CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) fiasco, scrap the six-day-standstill rule which is hampering farm businesses, introduce a strategy to save council farms from being sold off, and increase the amount of Welsh food purchased by the public sector in Wales.

Speaking ahead of the launch, Llyr Gruffydd, who lives on a family farm said: “If elected in May, a Plaid Cymru government would vow to be a strong voice for Wales’ rural communities.

“For too long, Labour Ministers have undermined our vital agriculture industry by making Wales the most modulated country in Europe – a decision that took £250m out of the pockets of Welsh farmers.

“Plaid Cymru wants to put this right by bringing forward policies that will ensure that the industry prospers in future.

“Our agriculture manifesto includes ambitious but achievable proposals to address Labour’s CAP fiasco and make sure Welsh farmers have a stronger voice in CAP simplification discussions, and scrap the six-daystandstill rule which is hampering farm businesses at the very time we need more flexibility.

“We would also introduce a strategy to save council farms from being sold off, under a wider programme to support new entrants into the industry.

“As part of Plaid Cymru’s wider proposals to raise procurement levels throughout Wales, we would ensure that the agriculture industry benefits from this by increasing the amount of Welsh food purchased by the public sector.”

Meanwhile, the Welsh Conservatives launched their rural manifesto on Friday, April 8.

Pledging to ‘bring rural Wales in from the cold’, Andrew RT Davies and Russell George announced a series of policy promises which they claimed recognised the specific needs of rural communities.

Andrew RT Davies, himself a member of a family farming business, said: “Welsh Conservatives would stand up for the farming industry and the rural communities around it.

“Assessing the impact of government policies shouldn’t be done by the same civil servants who draw it up. That responsibility should lie with the people who know best – rural communities themselves.”

Prospective Welsh Conservative Assembly Member, Russell George, said: “That Welsh Labour have relegated Rural Affairs to a junior cabinet post speaks volumes for Labour’s neglect of agriculture and the countryside.

“A Welsh Conservative Government would end this neglect and stand up for rural Wales.”

ONE POLICY: NO AGREEMENT

The Liberal Democrats’ agricultural manifesto launch, on April 11, was a feisty affair – as detailed by our reporter Matthew Bearne elsewhere in these pages. Noticeably, Kirsty Williams, the Welsh LibDem leader did not fight shy of providing her personal opinion on one of the burning issues affecting West Wales’s farmers: Bovine TB. The view of two of west Wales’s councils and both of Wales’main farming unions is crystalline on the point: in short, culling badgers is a necessary part of a combined approach to the control of Bovine TB. Not the only solution, but part of a holistic approach to the issue.

While the validity of statistical evidence and the science deployed by those on either side of the culling debate is likely to remain subjective and views to remain entrenched, there is a marked divide between most farmers and the west Wales councils on the one hand and the immediately past Welsh Government on the other.

But it is a mistake to conflate the debate about the future of Welsh agriculture with a single topic, no matter how passionately argued. A CONNECTED WALES Access to rural broadband is a live issue. A recent public meeting held in Whitland highlighted the gulf between public desire and expectation and the willingness of BT to provide a solution to every household and every business. As more and more of the paperwork that accompanies farming is planned to be completed online, fast and reliable broadband is essential for all farmers and all rural communities.

In addition, as Richard Walker of the FUW recently said: “The revolution in renewable energy, brought about by recognition of the need to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, has resulted in the development of new commercially viable sources of renewable energy, such as solar panels, as well as improvements in the efficiency of wind and water power.”

Despite Wales’ being perfectly suited for some forms of renewable energy generation, the percentage of electricity generated in Wales from renewable stands at just 10% – 5% lower than the UK average, and the lowest of all the UK devolved regions.

NFU Cymru’s ambition is for every farm to be able to become a net energy exporter, and in doing so helping contribute towards the Welsh Government’s greenhouse gas reduction targets.

The FUW has gone a step further and called on the next Welsh Government to seek ‘alternative and innovative ways’ in which funding can be provided in order to develop on-farm energy production and identify those barriers to on-farm energy production which fall within the remit of Welsh Government.

Next week, The Herald will be reporting on one such on-farm project and establishing just how viable it is for farms not only to power the rural economy, but also to provide power to Welsh homes and businesses.

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Community

The Prince’s Foundation’s 7 for 70 project in Ceredigion gathers speed

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Representatives of a charity behind a new centre to celebrate Welsh heritage, craft and culture have been encouraged by the progress made at the sacred site in Ceredigion.

The conversion of The Beudy ‒ pronounced “bay-dee”, meaning a cowshed ‒ at Strata Florida will mark the completion of the first phase of a project to restore the farmhouse and farm buildings owned by the Strata Florida Trust and supported by The Prince’s Foundation. The completed conversion will be officially opened later this year.

The wider project at Strata Florida is one of seven across the UK undertaken by The Prince’s Foundation to coincide with The Prince’s 70th birthday in 2018 in a campaign known as 7 for 70. Spearheaded by communities and supported by The Prince’s Foundation, the seven projects focus on landmark buildings and sites, whether neglected, in need of a new use, or requiring construction.

Mark Webb, fundraising and development manager for The Prince’s Foundation, visited Strata Florida, 16 miles south-east of Aberystwyth, alongside Peter Mojsa, representing the grant-giving charity Allchurches Trust, and was heartened by the impressive conversion work completed so far.

He said: “We share a vision with the Ceredigion community whereby Strata Florida regains its place as a foremost cultural heritage site in Wales, and the progress being made in the conversion of The Beudy is really encouraging.

“We hope to generate a renewed awareness of the significance of the site and establish it as a symbol of celebration of Welsh heritage, language and culture. Strata Florida Trust is aiming to create opportunities for a wide range of residential educational activities associated with the legacy of the site, its buildings, landscape and rural context.”

The Strata Florida Archaeology Field School is being run in partnership with Breaking Ground Heritage, an organisation that specialises in promoting wellbeing and rehabilitation through heritage-based activities, specifically to individuals with severe physical and psychological challenges. The school forms part of a three-year pilot project that has received £177,400 in grant funding from Allchurches Trust and is designed to encourage people to consider and pursue careers in archaeology.

Kim Hitch, director of projects for The Prince’s Foundation, said: “The Prince’s Foundation is proud of its contribution in preserving traditional skills, arts, and crafts, through its education and training programmes. In the same way that much of the training we offer helps to fill skills gaps and address the issue of shrinking workforces in certain industries, we hope that by supporting Strata Florida Trust run this archaeological field school, we can help address the dearth of new talent emerging in archaeology in the UK.”

Paul Playford, grants officer for Allchurches Trust, said: “We’re proud to support this exceptionally exciting project that is helping to halt the decline in practical archaeological opportunities and skills in the UK, breathing new life into this fascinating profession as well as enriching the local economy and protecting an important cultural site in Wales for future generations.

“We’re very much looking forward to seeing what treasures will be unearthed as the trenches open for a second summer and students and visitors discover the secrets of this ecclesiastical heritage gem, benefiting from the rich knowledge of the experts on-site and hopefully inspiring a love for archaeology and history that will last a lifetime.”

The Prince’s Foundation launched its 7 for 70 initiative to identify and undertake seven high-impact community regeneration projects throughout the United Kingdom. Drawing on more than 20 years of experience of heritage-led regeneration, project management, community engagement and architectural design, the charity, based at Dumfries House in Ayrshire, is working in partnership with local communities to support them in regeneration projects. The work also builds upon the successful community outreach work undertaken at Dumfries House – the restoration of nearby New Cumnock Town Hall in 2016 and the rebuilding of New Cumnock’s outdoor swimming pool in 2017. Both projects were completed in partnership with the local community in response to an appeal for assistance in saving these two much-loved local assets.

Successful 7 for 70 projects include The Duke of Rothesay Highland Games Pavilion, a Braemar-based showcase of Scotland’s rich history of traditional highland sports, and a summerhouse at the centre of a renovated walled garden at Hillsborough Castle in Northern Ireland. While projects are owned and operated by the local community, The Prince’s Foundation offers its fundraising, development and communications expertise to help identify funding options and deliver the capital phase. The Prince’s Foundation lends its wealth of expertise and knowledge in the heritage and built environment sectors, and in doing so to add the necessary value to ensure the projects’ successful completion.

The chief objective of The Prince’s Foundation is to create sustainable communities. The charity aims to achieve this by developing and managing places to visit, running a diverse programme of education and training for all ages with particular focus on traditional and heritage skills, and offering employment, most notably at its headquarters at Dumfries House in Ayrshire and in London. Its activity spans the world, with education programmes and placemaking initiatives in Europe, Africa, Asia, and North America.

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Community

Lampeter Green Infrastructure projects funding plans to be submitted after Cabinet approval

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The council will submit funding applications for two green infrastructure projects in Lampeter after the Cabinet approved the submission of the plans on 28 January 2020. The plans will be submitted to the Welsh Government.

It comes after Welsh Government recently announced the availability of a £5m ‘Green Infrastructure Fund’ for all Local Authorities in Wales to apply to.

Green Infrastructure is a design principle where greenery and vegetation is introduced into built up areas to increase urban greening and help urban cooling, reducing water run-off and improving residents well-being.

One of the proposed projects is the ‘Lampeter Green Corridor’ which involves the improvement of an all access path linking the North and the South of town through the University. The other proposed plan is the ‘Market Street Pedestrian Prioritisation’ which would see the area enhanced with a sustainable drainage system, tree planting, seating and spaces for market stalls and pop up stands.

Rhodri Evans is the Cabinet member responsible for Economy and Regeneration. He said, “This investment in Lampeter demonstrates how Green Infrastructure investments can both help our environment and be extremely beneficial for the town. As well as improving pedestrian accessibility, it has the potential of bringing more business in to the town with market and pop up stalls.

This decision supports the council’s corporate priorities of Promoting Environmental & Community Resilience and Boosting the Economy.

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Farming

More slaughter as TB strategy fails

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Andrew RT Davies: Labour is not listening to farmers

THE LATEST data relating to bovine TB in Wales has revealed an alarming and unsustainable rise in the number of cattle slaughtered due to this disease.
According to recent data, the number of cattle slaughtered in Wales in the 12 months to October 2019 was 12,742 and this is the highest number on record.
Indeed, whilst the most recent data reveals a 12% fall in New Herd Incidents in the 12 months to October 2019, the number of cattle slaughtered over the same period was 24% higher than the previous year.
FUW President Glyn Roberts said: “Although the data from TB Dashboard shows improvement in some areas, the number of cattle slaughtered remains unsustainably high. Just 917 cattle were culled in 1996 due to this disease and it is a sad and disturbing fact that the Welsh cattle sector has now become somewhat used to cattle slaughterings reaching the many thousands each year.”
The Union President added that losing TB-free status is devastating to farming families and their businesses. “The loss of precious stock and the restrictions on a farm business can be incredibly destructive and it is extremely distressing for our members who have worked hard to gain TB-free status, only to lose it again in the subsequent years.
“A TB breakdown is not only financially crippling for the farm, but also impacts more widely as struggling farm businesses are less able to contribute to both the local economy and further afield.”
High sensitivity testing, such as gamma testing and the removal of inconclusive reactors at severe interpretation, is blamed for some of this rise. However, this will be of little comfort to FUW members, many of whom have seen a huge number of cattle removed from their farm, he added.
“Despite a wealth of evidence on the important contribution of wildlife control to TB eradication in some places, the current TB programme continues to focus almost entirely on cattle controls.
“The FUW has continued to reiterate members concerns regarding the implementation of measures such as high sensitivity testing, without significant measures to tackle the disease in wildlife.
“The number of cattle herds registered in Wales has declined by 43 per cent since 1996. Bovine TB is one of the most serious issues facing Welsh cattle farmers and a more holistic approach, which seriously tackles the wildlife reservoir, is required urgently,” said Glyn Roberts.
Andrew RT Davies AM/AC – Shadow Minister for Environment, Sustainability, and the Environment – said: “Each month, farmers and others in our rural communities anticipate these figures with apprehension, and with good reason.
“The stats for the year to October 2019 show that 12,742 animals were slaughtered because of bovine TB, which – up from 10,303 – is a rise of 24 percent on the same period in 2018. England, by contrast, saw a drop of two percent.
“Clearly, the Welsh Labour Minister for the Environment and Rural Affairs has not got to grips with her brief in the almost four years in her post, and farmers – and the rural economy – here in Wales suffer as a result.
“But the suffering is not only financial.
“In the Senedd last week my colleague Paul Davies AM/AC spoke passionately on the subject of farmers enduring mental health problems. Bovine TB is another pressure, another cause of stress that our hardworking farmers and their families suffer, and it’s time it ended.
“A Welsh Conservative Government would develop a new, holistic approach for the eradication of bovine TB and look at all options to achieve this.
“Until then, we will harry this Welsh Labour administration to listen to farmers – as well as the Farmers’ Union of Wales and NFU Cymru – to step up its efforts to control this disease and bring this crisis to an end.”

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