Rural Development plan and cutting red tape central to tackling challenges of coming decades, FUW says

Delegates at the Farmers’ Union of Wales’ (FUW) annual general meeting have been told farmers are ideally placed to play a key role in addressing the major challenges of our generation.

However, speaking to delegates on Monday (June 15) in Aberystwyth, FUW president Emyr Jones warned that this could only happen if the industry was unhindered by regulations, and proper incentives were provided through the Rural Development Programme (RDP).

“At the time of our establishment in 1955, post-war rationing had only just come to an end, and the impact of food shortages remained fresh in peoples’ minds,” said Mr Jones.

Over the subsequent sixty years farms had modernised in order to providing plentiful and affordable food, he told delegates, meaning less than 10 percent of household incomes were now spent on food compared with more than 30 percent in 1955.

“In 1955 the world’s population stood at 2.8 billion. It now stands at 7.3 billion, well over double the 1955 level, and by the time the FUW reaches its 75th birthday it is expected to have trebled to 8.4 billion.

“With world populations set to continue growing, food production must remain the priority, but we must also recognise the other pressures and needs that growing populations bring, not least in terms of energy and the management of our natural resources.”

Mr Jones said Welsh farmers would rise to these new challenges just as they had done over the past six decades, but could only do so with the support of a focussed Rural Development Programme and in the absence of unnecessary restrictions.

“An appropriately structured RDP has the ability to raise awareness of the challenges and opportunities facing the industry over the coming years and decades, and above all else raise hopes.

“Such hope is desperately needed out there in the farming industry, at a time when farm incomes have crashed; farmgate prices have plummeted; and those factors influencing the Euro-Sterling exchange rate show little hope of improving in the near future – not to mention worries over our departure from the EU.”

Mr Jones said that while some factors were beyond government control, regulation was one area they did control which can make or break the ability to become more profitable while addressing key challenges.

He warned that the Welsh Government’s appetite for legislation could not only hinder the achievement of key objectives agreed upon by government and farming organisations, but also bring the principle of devolved government into disrepute.

“Overzealous legislation makes for bad governance, and strapped for cash businesses and authorities across Wales wait with bated breath, hoping that their worst fears are not realised when it comes to implementing the raft of legislation that is about to hit us here in Wales,” he added.

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