Plaid Cymru leader urges First Minister to ‘fight for farming sector’ in Wales
Plaid Cymru’s leader, Rhun ap Iorwerth has urged the First Minister to “fight for the farming sector” in Wales as farmers consider protesting against new Welsh Government policies.
The call came during FMQs on Tuesday (February 6) when Mr ap Iorwerth pressed Mark Drakeford on unrest in Wales’ farming sector following the roll out of new agriculture policies.
Plaid Cymru say Brexit, post-EU funding, a failure to get to grips with TB, the new Habitat scheme and the potentially mandated 10% tree cover on farms have had a cumulative effect on the sector.
Hundreds of farmers met at Welshpool livestock market last week to object to a new Welsh Government agri-payment scheme which has been branded “unworkable”.
Speaking in the Senedd, Mr ap Iorwerth said: “Farmers across Wales have had enough. They feel let down by governments either end of the M4.
“From Tory-made trade deals which undermine our agriculture sector and their failure to match EU-funding – to Labour’s weakness in dealing with the impact on TB on family farms, their delivery of a Habitat Wales Scheme which risks undoing so many years of agri-environment work, and an unworkable plan to cover 10% of their land with trees, with the loss of productive farmland.
“Just as we ask for a just transition for other industries when it comes to tackling climate change and saving jobs, we must also secure such a just transition for the agriculture sector.
“Plaid Cymru will always stand up for all of Wales, including our agriculture sector. Labour must do the same and work with the sector to secure its future – as key partners for tackling climate change and delivering food security.”
The First Minister said the proposals the Rural Affairs Minister, Lesley Griffiths had developed over the summer were informed by the dialogue she had with farmers.
He said: “Whenever people are faced with change, there is uncertainty and there is a feeling that the future is going to be a challenge. I absolutely recognise that feeling in rural communities here in Wales.
“At the last election, this Government went in front of the Welsh people with a target for tree planting here in Wales. Plaid Cymru went into the same election with a target twice as high as the Government’s target.
“Where does the leader of Plaid Cymru think the trees that he promised were going to be planted if they weren’t going to be planted in agricultural land? So, there is a compromise to be made, I agree with him there.
“The Welsh Government has already shown that we have listened carefully to what farmers have said, but we will not compromise on the actions we will take to make sure that this country makes our contribution to climate change, and farming and the rural parts of Wales will make a contribution to that.”
Plaid Cymru’s leader responded: “We know what the fears are, 5,000 jobs or more gone, £200 million taken out of the agriculture sector. I know the rural affairs Minister says that the modelling is out of date. Well, bring us the up-to-date modelling so that we can plan for a real future for our farming sector.”
Mr Drakeford said: “The right tree in the right place is exactly what our sustainable farming scheme seeks to achieve. That’s why we’re continuing to consult with the sector; that’s why we will have a long transition into the sustainable farming scheme of the future.
“When we know how much money the Welsh Government has beyond this comprehensive spending review period, we will be able not just to model what we are proposing, but to use actual figures, because then we will know the figures we have, and at that point that’s what we have promised and that’s exactly what we will do.”
Speaking prior to FMQs, Plaid Cymru spokesperson for Rural Affairs, Llyr Gruffydd said: “I am not surprised that farmers are angry given the enormous pressures faced by the industry at the moment.
“Be it the effects of Brexit, the proposed Sustainable Farming Scheme, NVZs or bovine TB – these all are having an effect on the agriculture sector. But when they all come at the same time, the cumulative effect is so much worse.
“Plaid Cymru stands shoulder to shoulder with our rural communities and we will continue to demand from both Welsh and Westminster Governments a change in direction which secures a future for our family farms in Wales.”
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