The NFU Monmouthshire Hustings took place last night (at Alice Springs Golf Club, near Usk) and was well attended (which seems to be the pattern of Hustings of late). The questions covered a wide range of topics, some of which related to farming (and agriculture) including the economy, the banking crisis, supermarkets, party funding, fuel prices and micro- generation.
Not surprisingly there was a focus on the future of farming (especially focusing on how the next generation of young farmers will get into the business. This is something that Elin Jones AM, Plaid Minister of Rural Affairs has began to address with the Young Entrants scheme. The farmers present were well aware of the Minister's ongoing activities on their behalf.
The slow but steady increase in fuel costs will have a harder impact in rural areas (where there is a lack of public transport) and also on food prices, where rising costs will hit both consumers and producers, with increased prices, falling profit margins and higher fuel bills - something that will hit both production and transportation costs. None of this is good news for either our farmers or us their customers.
One thing, we in Wales, cannot afford to neglect of the important agricultural sector, which still makes a significant contribution to our rural economy. And speaking of the farmers old traditional friends, it's worth remembering that not that long ago in the 1980's it was a Tory Secretary of State who literally sat by and quietly did nothing when many of our Dairy farmers got hammered into the ground by cuts in the milk quota.
Oddly enough when I mentioned this last night it was not picked up by the incumbent Tory MP who chose not to say a word on the subject. Whoever emerges from this Westminster election, in pole position (or on top of the pile) never again must any Welsh Minister fail to stand up and be counted and to fail to argue their corner on behalf of Welsh farmers.
We need to take 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.