Members of NFU Cymru’s Next Generation Policy Group recently visited Brussels to see first-hand the work of NFU Cymru and represent the views of Welsh young farmers at a European level.
During a packed two day programme, the group met with several influential decision makers, including those working directly for Wales, the UK, Ireland, Europe and New Zealand. They had a tour of the European Parliament as well as visiting a dairy farm in nearby Bever where they had the opportunity to discuss different farming practises.
The group were given an insight into the work of the British Agricultural Bureau (BAB) office, which represents all of the UK National Farmers Unions, including NFU Cymru, in Brussels. Adam Bedford, Director of the BAB office, urged the group to, “Ask questions and challenge MEPs, as you’re their electorate.”
The members of the group took this message on board when they met with Welsh MEPs; Dr Kay Swinburne, Jill Evans and Derek Vaughan. The main discussions included: The future of UK membership of the European Union; the challenges of reforming the CAP, ensuring simplicity and commonality; the importance of a functioning Rural Development Programme that delivers benefit at farm level and implementing European regulations including the introduction of electronic identification (EID) of sheep in Wales, with several members of the group calling for greater tolerance at farm level.
The successes and failures of agricultural co-operatives was the main topic of discussion with Conor Mulvihill, European Affairs Officer for the Irish Co-operative Organisation Society (ICOS) and members of the group learned about how co-operatives work in Ireland and whether the model could be used more widely within Wales to benefit Welsh farmers.
In a meeting with David Harrison, the Regional Manager in Europe for Beef and Lamb New Zealand, the group discussed access to emerging lamb markets, the need for greater carcass utilisation as well as comparing the latest technological developments within the industry. The issue of New Zealand lamb quota was also hotly debated with the group explaining the impact that they felt imports had had on the domestic market, during the summer and the consequences on their own businesses.
Tom Tynan, a member of EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan’s Cabinet, met with the group and took a keen interest in the views of the young farmers. He said that jobs, growth and investment were key to industry success. The UK and Welsh Government agricultural representatives in Europe also met with the group, along with Jessica Fitch, Communications Officer for CEJA, the European Council of Young Farmers.
Speaking after the visit group member, Rhodri Jones, said, “We have had a fantastic few days in Brussels where we have seen all parts of the European decision making process. As a group, we passionately believe in the future of our industry and are determined to build successful careers within Wales, so this was a perfect opportunity to help promote our views. It is clear to see the influence that NFU Cymru has in Brussels and this was illustrated by the calibre and quality of the visit they arranged for us.”
NFU Cymru President, Stephen James, who also travelled with the group to Brussels, said, “This trip provided a fantastic opportunity for our Next Generation Policy Group to learn more about the work that NFU Cymru does over in Brussels. Our BAB office is a crucial tool in voicing our members’ views to European leaders and decision makers and without this presence Welsh and UK farmers’ voices may not be heard.
“The group was very professional and challenged some of the policies coming out of Europe. They earned the respect of those they spoke to and represented the views of Welsh farmers extremely well. I would like to thank Dr Kay Swinburne MEP for sponsoring the trip.”
The NFU Cymru Next Generation Policy Group comprises of young farmers from all corners of Wales, who represent Wales’ main farming sectors.