The issues most concerning farmers in Ceredigion were outlined at a hustings event organised by the Union’s Ceredigion branch with the main focus on the eradication of bovine TB.
The event, which was held at Lampeter Rugby Club, on Thursday 21 April, welcomed Elizabeth Evans (Liberal Democrats), Elin Jones (Plaid Cymru), Gethin James (UKIP), Aled Davies (Conservatives) and Brian Williams (Green Party).
Each of the candidates outlined their party position for the upcoming Welsh Assembly Elections in May before the floor was opened for questions from the audience.
The panel first faced questions on what they would do to improve farmgate prices.
There was a general consensus amongst all the candidates that the Groceries Code Adjudicator needed more power to tackle unfair practices in the supply chain and that the position of food producers had to be strengthened in the market place.
Chairing the evening was Ceredigion YFC Rural Affairs Committee Chairman Morys Ioan, who asked the panel how they would tackle the problem of bovine TB.
Outlining their respective positions, Elizabeth Evans said that whilst the topic was not covered in the Welsh Liberal Democrats manifesto, she was in strong support of a cull in line with the proposals put forward by Ceredigion Council just a few weeks ago.
The Conservative candidate, Aled Davies,highlighted the party position in favour of a cull but personally would prefer a licensed approach, whereby each farmer applies for a license to deal with wildlife on their farm on a case by case basis.
Gethin James, UKIP, said the party would support a trial cull if the veterinary opinion is in in support of such a move.
Brian Williams, who represented the Green Party, was strongly in favour of further testing and more stringent cattle controls to tackle bTB and was fully opposed to a badger cull.
Plaid Cymru’s Elin Jones, outlined the need for re-evaluation of the situation and that it was paramount that all sources of infection were tackled. She added the party was committed to using the most effective measures to control and eradicate bTB and ensuring that testing and movement restrictions are proportionate to the disease status of an area.
Aled Rees, FUW Ceredigion County Chairman, said: “It is clear that most of the candidates here in Ceredigion and across Wales agree that something has to be done to tackle the crisis of bovine TB.
“Farmers always have and always will look after their livestock and put the animals welfare at the forefront of their business.
“Yet they are forced to watch their cattle suffer or being taken away because of this nasty disease time and time again.
“The current Welsh Government has done nothing to solve the problem, apart from squander money on the BCG vaccine programme, which they then had to abandon.
“It baffles me that, even though we cull approximately 150 cattle a week because of bTB, that the topic is barely raised in some manifestos and not at all in others.
“Party’s make a commitment to their voters with their election manifesto. How can we hold them to account if it is either not mentioned or very vaguely? Yes we have had some assurances verbally here tonight but that is not a strong enough commitment.”
The Union is reminding the election candidates that what is needed to deal with the bTB problem is for the next administration to properly balance the economic needs of farm businesses against the need to minimise disease transmission and ensure that proportionate penalties are only applied where they are appropriate, and that the practicalities of farming in the real world are taken into full account when considering appeals against penalties and sanctions.
In addition the FUW is reminding election candidates that it is important to introduce an exemption from the requirement to pre-movement test for 60 days after a clear test for movements from high risk parishes or regions, and 180 days after a clear test for movements from low risk parishes or regions.
As part of the FUW’s manifesto, the Union further asks of the next government to urge England to bring its rules in relation to animal testing in line with those present in Wales and implement a badger culling policy at the earliest opportunity, in line with official ministerial advice previously received by the current Welsh Government, in order to replicate the positive outcomes seen in countries throughout the world.