Friday, 8 May 2009

And then there were none…

Despite the recession, the Westminster and the Plaid driven One Wales National Assembly Government need to work hard to ensure that Welsh farmers get a fair deal so that they can earn a real living - otherwise there will not be any farmers left!

Our farmers and our farming communities are feeling increasingly isolated and marginalised, the contempt with which the farmers have been treated in by the New Labour Government in Westminster and also in Cardiff Bay (certainly prior to May 2007) mirrored the neglect of the important agricultural sector, which still makes a significant contribution to our rural economy.

Any economic failure across the farming sector will have a massive knock on for dependent businesses across the rural economy and for the Welsh countryside, itself, as the living landscape is a result of generations of hard work by the farming community.

By way of example some 33,000 people are employed in the red meat supply chain, quite rightly the Plaid driven One Wales Government views the red meat sector as a major player in Wales. The industry contributes some £381 million to the Welsh economy, including exports worth £108 million, which is 43% of the total value of annual agricultural output.

By supporting this sector of the agricultural economy, we can help fight the recession and help build a flourishing and diverse sustainable agricultural economy for the 21st Century.

The truth is in the past both Labour and Conservative Governments in Westminster and Cardiff Bay treated the agricultural sector with indifference. It is vitally important that this attitude become outdated; much more effort has to be made to market first class Welsh produce within the UK, in Europe and beyond.

It is important to remember that in the 1980's a Tory Secretary of State literally sat by and quietly did nothing when the Dairy farmers were hammered into the ground by cuts in the milk quota. Never again must any Welsh Minister fail to stand up, to be counted, to speak out and to fail to argue their corner on behalf of Welsh farmers.

Some things may have finally changed, for at least with Elin Jones (AM), the Plaid One Wales Government Minister for Rural Affairs we actually has someone who has hit the ground running and who is not afraid to meet with, listen to and actually talk to as well as stand up for our farmers and their interests – this makes a refreshing change from what has gone before.

Our farmers are not merely looking for an annual brown envelope from Brussels but for a real opportunity to make a contribution within the agricultural sector - to do this they need a fair deal.

We need practical steps to give Welsh farmers a fighting chance of making a real living; securing 80% of publicly procured food locally by 2015 is a realistic and practical aim. This is something that could provide the first practical step towards helping Welsh farmers and other producers make the most of the new opportunities that will arise from higher public purchasing of local products.

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