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Brexit – a new dawn for Welsh agriculture?

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Screen Shot 2016-08-17 at 09.44.56THE WEATHER was perfect for the Royal Welsh Show – golden Mid Wales sunshine tempered with a welcome mist of drizzle on the final day, to dampen the Llanelwedd dust. 

Strong entries in the livestock classes, the wheat futures market firming up, and, due to the combination of a lower sterling rate and the recent end of Ramadan, fat lamb prices stronger than they have been in recent years. No wonder, then, that Brexiteer AMs such as Welsh Conservative Leader, Andrew RT Davies, and UKIP supremo Neil Hamilton were bestriding the Showground, talking of unparalleled opportunities, with Welsh farmers unshackled from the unloved clutches of Brussels bureaucracy. I dare say that a few pints of Fosters were downed at the Young People’s Village, to celebrate the opportunities of reconnecting with our Commonwealth cousins.

However, such optimism, especially amongst those who campaigned with zeal for Brexit, did not reflect the wider mood that I encountered, talking with Farming Unions and ordinary farmers and growers from all parts of Wales. Rather, I found a genuine apprehension out there about what the Brexit vote means for the future of farming, so central to the prospects for our wider rural economy. Surprisingly, it was the contribution of two, until recently obscure, MPs that crystallised their concerns.

In the last Welsh Questions before the House of Commons Recess, Ian Lucas, Labour MP for Wrexham, hailed the Brexit vote as an opportunity to reassess the public support for agriculture, especially at a time of fiscal stringency. Also, with a hint of dog whistle politics, Mr Lucas referred to ‘prosperous farmers’ who could surely cope without public subvention. While Mr Lucas was doubtless appealing to his own immediate core voters in thus caricaturing farmers, the wider farming community cannot afford to ignore his contribution. Indeed, given the Brexit vote, which it seems that many Welsh farmers supported despite the warnings of the Welsh Farming Unions and agricultural economists, it is inevitable that the debate on farm support, and the payment structure for environmental goods and services provided by farmers, will intensify.

Perhaps of greater significance to farmers in Wales were the recent comments of the Rt Hon Andrea Leadsom MP, a veritable lioness of Brexit, whose rise to DEFRA Secretary after her abortive bid for the Conservative leadership has been meteoric. During the Referendum campaign, Mrs Leadsom commented: “It would make so much more sense if those with the big fields do the sheep, and those with the hill farms do the butterflies. That would make a lot more sense for the UK and it’s perfectly possible but only if we leave the EU and sort it out for ourselves.” Alongside her call for the repeal of the Hunting Act and her crusading support for fracking, these remarks certainly single out Mrs Leadsom as a ‘red meat eater’ – but have served to send shivers down the spines of farmers and environmentalists alike. As early as 2007, Leadsom argued that ‘subsidies must be abolished’ in an article on how to rejuvenate British farming, so at least in this respect, there is some depth to her views, if not her analysis.

In the economic conditions that now confront us as a country contemplating the reality of Brexit, pressure on the public purse will be more acute than ever before. Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader, Mark Williams MP, and I launched the ‘Not a Penny Less’ campaign on farm support at the Royal Welsh – and are already tapping into a rich vein of support. This was boosted by a visit from Federal Liberal Democrat Leader, Tim Farron MP, on the final day of the Show. It is now more important than ever for all farmers to engage in the public debate, so that there is a better understanding of the vital contribution that they make as custodians of the land, both in terms of maintaining biodiversity, but also to the whole tourist sector, such a critical part of the wider rural economy.

However, more important than anything for Welsh farming is securing long -term access to the European Single Market for our quality farm exports – and making that an essential element in the permanent post -Referendum settlement. A Seminar on Welsh Upland Farming hosted at the Show by Aberystwyth University reminded us of the consequences of the withdrawal of public subsidy for farming in New Zealand. It is not the butterflies that have suffered, but rather animal welfare standards, as well as formerly thriving villages and market towns turned to ghost towns. Whilst the positives of a vibrant New Zealand agricultural sector are often cited, the consequences of such huge scale ranch farming would destroy our pattern of community life in Wales, with the Welsh speaking upland areas suffering worst of all.

The farmers with whom I spoke at Llanelwedd agree with the stance of both FUW and NFU Cymru. We urgently need fresh leadership from Welsh Government ahead of any triggering of Article 50 to leave the European Union. Central to that is the reassertion of the vital role for tariff free access to the European Single Market. The industry needs also to engage with the environmental sector – and the wider public – to stress the critical importance of food security, as well as the public benefits in terms of biodiversity and flood risk management that flow from maintaining human scale family farms. Only proportionate farm support systems from the public purse will safeguard this for the future.

Another reason for genuine leadership on these issues from Welsh Government, from the First Minister down, is the danger of agricultural policy being repatriated from Brussels only for vital powers to be retained at Westminster. This concern has been raised by voices as diverse as Penri James of Bangor University, constitutional expert Sir Paul Silk and well known Radnorshire farmer and commentator, David Hardwick. Despite disquiet about Welsh Government agricultural policy over recent years, in terms of RDP/ modulation and the challenges of bovine TB eradication, it would be a strange definition of progress for EU Agricultural Commissioner Phil Hogan to be replaced by Mrs Leadsom. But then, the best outcome for the future of Welsh Agriculture looks rather like Norwegian style EFTA membership, with tariff free trade, free movement of people and a full contribution to the EU budget, just no influence on the rules. Those in Wales who have delivered Brexit for our rural communities really must be careful what they wish for.

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Community

Council celebrates success of Apprenticeship Scheme

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Four people from Ceredigion have now completed apprenticeships with Ceredigion County Council.

Gareth John, Ceri-Anne Hughes, Alanah Lloyd and Sam Pinnel-Hirst were the first recruits onto the Council’s new scheme established in November 2018 and have spent the last 12 months earning a wage while they learn new skills.

Sam and Alanah completed qualifications in Business Administration, Gareth in Youth Work and Ceri-Ann in Health and Social Care. All four have since successfully secured employment. Gareth, Alanah and Ceri-Anne will continue their careers with Ceredigion Council and Sam is moving onto work with Powys County Council.

Debbie Ayriss, Learning and Development Manager said: “We are really pleased we have been able to offer these apprenticeship opportunities. This year, our scheme received a significant increase in enquiries and applications and we are looking forward to four more apprentices starting their careers with us soon.”

More information on the apprenticeship scheme can be found at: https://www.ceredigion.gov.uk/resident/jobs-careers/apprenticeships/

Cyngor yn dathlu llwyddiant Cynllun Prentisiaethau

Mae pedwar person wedi llwyddo i gwblhau prentisiaethau gyda Chyngor Sir Ceredigion.

Gareth John, Ceri-Anne Hughes, Alanah Lloyd a Sam Pinnell-Hirst oedd y rhai cyntaf i gael eu recriwtio i gynllun newydd y Cyngor a sefydlwyd ym mis Tachwedd 2018, ac maen nhw wedi treulio’r 12 mis diwethaf yn ennill cyflog wrth iddyn nhw ddysgu sgiliau newydd.

Cwblhaodd Sam ac Alanah gymwysterau mewn Gweinyddu Busnes, cwblhaodd Gareth gymhwyster mewn Gwaith Ieuenctid a Ceri-Anne gymhwyster mewn Iechyd a Gofal Cymdeithasol. Ers hynny, mae’r pedwar wedi llwyddo i gael gwaith a buon nhw’n dathlu eu llwyddiant yn ddiweddar. Bydd Gareth, Alanah a Ceri-Anne yn parhau â’u gyrfaoedd gyda Chyngor Ceredigion a bydd Sam yn symud i weithio gyda Chyngor Sir Powys.

Dywedodd Debbie Ayriss, Rheolwr Dysgu a Datblygu: “Rydym yn falch iawn o fod wedi gallu cynnig y prentisiaethau hyn. Eleni bu cynnydd mawr o ran ymholiadau a cheisiadau i’n cynllun ac rydym yn edrych ymlaen at weld pedwar prentis arall yn dechrau ar eu gyrfaoedd gyda ni yn fuan.”

Gall dod o hyd i ragor o wybodaeth ar gynllun prentisiaethau ar: https://www.ceredigion.gov.uk/preswyliwr/swyddi-a-gyrfaoedd/prentisiaethau/

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Staff experience what dementia may feel like

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During Autumn 2019 Ceredigion County Council staff and elected members were given the opportunity to take part in a Virtual Dementia Tour (VDT). By using specialist equipment and creating a simulated environment, the experience gave an insight into what dementia might feel like.

Donna Pritchard, Corporate Lead Officer Porth Ceredigion and Deputy Statutory Director for Social Services said: “This has been a very thought-provoking experience. It’s allowed participants to physically and emotionally feel what it would be like to live with Dementia and to acknowledge the challenges to overcome that sensory loss brings.”

Dementia is a syndrome (a group of related symptoms) associated with an ongoing decline of brain functioning. This may include problems with memory loss, thinking speed, mental sharpness and quickness, language, understanding judgement, mood, movement and difficulties carrying out daily activities.

Donna continued: “The Virtual Dementia Tour identifies ways to improve communication for people living with dementia and ways that care and support staff can change their practice to improve their lives and help them achieve positive outcomes. All our staff at residential homes have been trained to ensure that people with dementia are supported in an inclusive environment.”

Staff yn cael profiad o’r hyn y gall dementia deimlo fel

Yn ystod yr Hydref 2019 rhoddwyd cyfle i staff ac aelodau etholedig Cyngor Sir Ceredigion gymryd rhan mewn ‘Virtual Dementia Tour‘ (VDT). Drwy ddefnyddio offer arbenigol a chreu amgylchedd ffug, roedd y profiad yn rhoi cipolwg ar yr hyn y gallai dementia ei deimlo.

Dywedodd Donna Pritchard, Swyddog Arweiniol Corfforaethol Porth Ceredigion a Dirprwy Gyfarwyddwr Statudol Gwasanaethau Cymdeithasol: “Mae hwn wedi bod yn brofiad sy’n ysgogi’r meddwl. Mae’n caniatáu i gyfranogwyr deimlo sut beth fyddai fyw gyda dementia, yn gorfforol ac yn emosiynol, a chydnabod yr heriau i oresgyn y golled synhwyraidd honno.”

Mae dementia yn syndrom (grŵp o symptomau cysylltiedig) sy’n gysylltiedig â dirywiad parhaus o ran gweithrediad yr ymennydd. Gall hyn gynnwys problemau o ran colli cof, cyflymder meddwl, miniogrwydd meddwl a chyflymdra, iaith, deall dyfarniad, hwyliau, symud ac anawsterau’n cyflawni gweithgareddau dyddiol.

Parhaodd Donna: “Mae’r ‘Virtual Dementia Tour’ yn nodi ffyrdd o wella’r cyfathrebu ar gyfer pobl sy’n byw gyda dementia a ffyrdd y gall staff gofal a chymorth newid eu hymarfer i wella eu bywydau a’u helpu i gyflawni canlyniadau cadarnhaol. Mae pob un o’n staff mewn cartrefi preswyl wedi cael eu hyfforddi i sicrhau bod pobl â dementia yn cael eu cefnogi mewn amgylchedd cynhwysol.”

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Quadruple success for Ceredigion in Estyn Excellence Awards

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FOUR Ceredigion organisations were successful in the Estyn Excellence Awards in October.

Aberporth Bilingual Playgroup and Cylch Meithrin Talgarreg made up half of the nurseries that were recognised for excellence.

Ysgol Dyffryn Cledlyn and Ysgol Mynach were two of 29 primary schools recognised on the night.

Councillor Catrin Miles is the Cabinet member responsible for Learning Services. She said: “We are extremely proud of the recognition by Estyn of the excellence achieved at these schools and settings. I offer my sincere congratulations to all staff, pupils, governors and parents.”

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