Montgomeryshire farmer has high hopes for future of wool

Well known in farming circles throughout Wales and the UK, Steve Smith, is a former Welsh Sheep Farmer of the Year and has won many accolades for his prize winning Penparc Texel flock.

He achieved an ambition in 2010 by winning the supreme pairs at the Welsh Winter Fair and is well versed in the challenges and opportunities being a first generation farmer can bring, but is realistic about the priorities that have to be made to achieve your dream.

Steve has built up his farming enterprise to approx 1200 acres, and the business is spread over two holdings in Montgomeryshire and Meirionnydd, where a fully stratified sheep system is in operation.

He recognising the great maternal instincts and longevity of the Welsh hill flock and its influence in building a sound genetic maternal base on which the finished lamb enterprise is based upon. The pedigree Pen Parc Longhorn Herd also runs alongside, and he focuses on marketing this to the high quality market.
The holdings are part of the the Welsh Government Glastir Suite of Agri Environment schemes and the aim of the family has always been to match sustainable land management with top quality breeding stock and these two founding principles have been behind the success of the business.

Steve has always had a great appreciation for nature and the need to have sustainability at its core. He said: “I have always respected nature and its environment before it became fashionable.”

In the late 90’s the family further diversified into holiday cottages and more recently renewable energy.

For the last 9 years Steve has been the Montgomeryshire British Wool Marketing Board (BWMB) representative and is now looking to become the Welsh Northern Region elected member, to represent the interests of Welsh farmers and further promote the work of Welsh farmers and the BWMB.

He has a global outlook and an understanding of how the markets work and what is needed to make a success of the industry, which is now more important than ever given the UK’s decision to leave the European Union.

“Every asset on the farm and that includes wool will need to meet consumer demands as efficiently as possible. It is easy to forget why co-operatives were originally set up. They were set up at times of adversity to make the farming voice stronger, our forefathers were some of the greatest entrepreneurs of their time. The last few decades have seen farmers become more isolated through the need for efficiencies and increased mechanisation,” he said.

Going forward with global forces and free trading the time may come again when farmers have to strengthen their voice to be heard. The British Wool Board is effectively the largest producer co-operative in Britain, with over 40,000 registered sheep farmers and always has operated on a global market making it very well placed to go forward.

Steve is well aware that there are further efficiencies to be made, saying:  “I want to get more of the price paid for wool back to the producers because that has to be ultimate aim.

“The BWMB has recently appointed Joe Farrell to take over has the new CEO. Mr farrell is a former barrister with excellent management skills and  he recognises the need to support training programmes and provide value for money for our farmers. To some extent this could be done by reducing administration and marketing and promotion costs. However, this can only be achieved if every wool producer supports the BWMB. If we lose this, fragmentation in our industry does not serve any master well.”

“It is very important that everyone who produces wool understands how the process works and sees the amount of investment that goes into scouring plants in this country. Keeping the processing capacity in the UK is vital to ensuring there is a reasonably competitive base in our markets.

“The same could be said for the red meat and the dairy industries ‘added value’ must be core to our activities going forward. There are exciting times ahead and yes, I know the price of wool has slightly dipped at present but it’s a green product that fits into the expectations of customers in the present day,” said Steve.

The world is changing and farmers have an uncertain future in terms of the political arena, Steve recognises, saying: “Never before have so many demands been made upon our farmers. Retaining a critical mass of sheep numbers will be one of the next challenges as farm support evolves, but that does not mean we cannot plan for our future, new research and development.

“A pull on natural resources and reductions required in the use of fossil fuels means that consumers will have to look to longer term choices when they purchase. Wool is a prime example of that, with exciting new designers on board I am confident that the term ‘Green Growth’ will attract buyers for Welsh wool the UK can have a bright future.”

Speaking about why Steve Smith is worth supporting in his ambition to be elected as the Northern Region Member, FUW Montgomeryshire County Executive Officer Emyr Wyn Davies said: “Steve has all the enthusiasm and over all knows how the BWMB works, having been the Montgomeryshire representative for over 9 years. I would encourage anyone who has received a voting paper to support Steve in his endeavour to help further the work of the BWMB.”

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