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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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Magistrates uphold council decision not to renew dog-breeding licence

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ON MONDAY 18 November 2019, Rhydian Jones of Waun Lluest, Gorrig, Llandysul appeared before Aberystwyth Magistrates at an appeal hearing objecting to the decision not to renew his Dog Breeding Licence.

Ceredigion County Council took the decision under the Animal Welfare (Breeding of Dogs) (Wales) Regulations 2014, because of breaches in licence conditions identified during unannounced inspections of the premises. The breaches included the lack of supervision, enrichment and socialisation given to the dogs. Breaches also included the unsatisfactory cleaning of premises and the absence of dog breeding records. There was also a failure to make improvements requested of Mr Jones previously.

Health and Welfare Reports provided during the hearing detailed health problems with the dogs which included lice and mange.

Mr Jones disputed the findings and decision of the council throughout the appeal hearing. His defence referred to the considerable amount of improvements that had been completed.

The court concluded that the council had provided full and clear grounds for not renewing the Dog Breeding Licence, stating that the council was both reasonable and proportionate in their actions. The court accepted that the establishment was unsatisfactory in many respects whilst acknowledging that significant improvements had been made. It took into consideration the history of non-compliance at Waun Lluest, the testimony given by the appellant and the lack of confidence in him as a licensee. The court concluded that the recent improvements made by Mr Jones were unlikely to be sustained and found in favour of the council. The appeal was dismissed. Mr Jones was ordered to pay £500 costs.

Alun Williams is the council’s Corporate Lead Officer responsible for Policy and Performance. He said, “We are delighted that Magistrates found in our favour. A decision not to renew a licence is not taken lightly and officers and council solicitors had to build a robust case to present to the court. We will continue to make unannounced inspection visits to all licensed dog breeders in the county, the great majority of which operate well within regulations and the conditions of their licence. We will also pursue those individuals who breed dogs without a licence. Anyone with information on such activities should contact the council on 01545 570 881.”

Mr Jones previously held a licence to breed 26 adult dogs. His establishment had recently featured in a BBC Wales investigative documentary, although the council had decided not to renew the licence many months before broadcast.

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A Battered Suitcase in the Attic: Explore Your Own Archive

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CEREDIGION’S Explore Your Own Archives’ campaign, ‘A Battered Suitcase in the Attic’, will be held from 25 to 30 November 2019. The intention is to get people to value their own personal archives. The title reflects the half-forgotten treasures that many people have hidden in the attic or under the bed in their homes.

Explore Your Archive is a national campaign delivered by the Archives and Records Association which aims to showcase the best of archives and archive services to a wide range of existing and potential users.

The local campaign wants to make people in the county consider and start to really value the documents that they’ve stashed away, and look after them.

During the week, various events and activities will take place at Aberystwyth Bandstand. The Bandstand will be open from 10am until 5pm Monday until Friday. Events and activities during the week are free for all, and some can be seen below.

· Displays of beautiful and interesting things from the Ceredigion Archives collections.

· A display of some special collections curated by Aberystwyth University Postgraduates studying Archive Administration.

· A chance to get your own free archive box for your family’s document treasures.

· A ‘Victorian’ photo-booth – dress up in the clothes (kindly loaned by Ceredigion Museum) and strike a suitable pose in front of our specially painted backdrop.

· Badge-making for all ages.

· Comfy corner: relax and watch a slide show of images from our collections, share your recollections with us.

· Browse a selection of Ceredigion Archives books, greetings cards and preservation items for sale at modest prices.

· Refreshments.

There are also lectures, workshops for adults and children and an evening with local ballad singer Owen Shiers. All events are free but so you’ll need to book for the workshops and Owen Shiers’ performance on Thursday night as numbers are limited.

Visit http://bit.ly/ArchifdyCeredigionArchives to book your place on workshops or Owen Shiers’ performance, or you can call Ceredigion Archives on 01970 633697 between 10-5 on Monday until Friday. Also, on the website you can see a full list of day to day activities and events taking place during the week.

If you need further information, call Ceredigion Archives on 01970 633697.

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Three New Quay RNLI crew members pass out as lifeboat mechanics

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THREE volunteer crew members have recently qualified as volunteer all-weather lifeboat mechanics at New Quay Lifeboat Station.

After a long training programme, which included courses at the RNLI College in Poole and extensive training on station, Pete Yates and Huw Williams were put through their paces by Peter McColl, RNLI Senior Assessor Trainer, Plant and Machinery, in their final pass out assessment 31 October.

After demanding assessments, where they had to deal with a variety of emergency situations at sea, Pete and Huw demonstrated the required level of competence to become lifeboat mechanics.

Pete said: ‘It was a very intense assessment, having to constantly think on your feet and remember your training.’

On 20 November, RNLI Assessor Trainer Simon Bunting visited the station and made it a hat trick of mechanic pass outs as crew member Dylan Price successfully completed a series of assessments, both onshore and afloat.

Huw added: ‘Pete, Dylan and I would like to thank the crew who gave up their time to launch the boat for our assessments and also thank our mechanics who have helped so much with training. We couldn’t have done it without their support.’

Roger Couch, New Quay RNLI Lifeboat Operations Manager said: ‘As part of our ongoing succession planning, Pete, Huw and Dylan have trained hard over the past year and I’d like to thank them for their time and effort. It is essential that we have a mechanic available at all times and this gives us much more flexibility to cover weekends and holidays for our full time station mechanic.’

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