NFU Cymru Environment and Land Use Adviser, Rachel Lewis-Davies writes:
In late September, the Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA) arranged a Rural Conference at the Royal Welsh Showground in Builth Wells. The aim of the conference was to raise the profile of the key role of local government in championing the future interests of rural communities and their wider rural economies, as discussions around future funding post-Brexit intensify.
The WLGA rightly recognise that this is a time of unprecedented uncertainty for rural communities across Wales, with the outcome of Brexit as uncertain as ever, and the lack of clarity regarding future funding and support arrangements causing great concerns.
Local government recognises that farming has a key role in sustaining our rural communities. Wales’ strong tradition of sustainable farming, dominated by family farms, make a vital contribution to rural communities across Wales, sustaining the Welsh language and culture, also providing opportunities for young people to live and work in our rural communities.
NFU Cymru was pleased to actively participate in the conference with representation from members across Wales and with Aled Jones, our Deputy President, invited to participate in a panel discussion on key challenges and opportunities for rural Wales.
As farmers we know we are very much at the heart of our rural communities providing employment, supporting rural businesses and contributing to our rural economy. Welsh farming is the bedrock of the Welsh language and culture, also providing the backdrop for the Welsh tourism and recreation sector.
If Welsh farming fails, so do our rural communities. The need to develop an agricultural policy that recognises our pivotal role is essential and it is vital that equivalent levels of funding are secured going forward. Future policy must address the volatility that farm businesses are exposed to through the provision of stability support that ensures Welsh farming can stay competitive and secure the continued supply of high quality food in Wales, not least for all the wider benefits it provides.
In this time of profound change it is only through working collaboratively, as those unified in securing the future of our rural communities, that our voice will be heard. We commend WLGA for recognising current risks and challenges and showing leadership to ensure that the need to safeguard our rural communities is not overlooked in the debate.