Welsh farming is being overwhelmed by change. It is being forced upon us and at best it seems to be very poorly thought through. NFU Cymru and the FUW (and others) are working really hard to exert some influence, but it feels like the Welsh Government just want to hollow out the rural economy. Rural families are fearful for their future, and the anger is becoming palpable.
An impact assessment suggests that if the Sustainable Farming Scheme goes ahead as planned, 5,000 jobs and £199m per year of farm income will be taken out of the rural economy.
Those who watch Ffermio will be all too aware of the personal consequences of Welsh Government policy that fails to follow established science, when it comes to bovine TB control. It’s literally heart-breaking.
The proposed changes to the school calendar, which will mean that the Royal Welsh Show occurs during term time typifies our government’s approach; no thought or care for the hundreds of farming families who base their annual holiday around this brilliant Welsh event. To suggest the show changes its dates demonstrates a profound lack of understanding (or care for) a summer calendar that is full of rural events including the National Eisteddfod.
Of course we live in a democracy, and are subject to the laws passed by our Welsh Government. But equally a democratic government must govern for all of the people, not just their core voters or party members. A recent YouGov survey confirms that the overwhelming majority of Welsh people (82 per cent) support the Welsh Government providing funding for farmers. Interestingly, that support is highest in the Labour heartlands of south and north Wales. So they are not even listening to their own voters!
It’s beginning to feel like we are just having regulation upon rule imposed on us by a Welsh Government than knows little and cares less. And that’s compounded by local government that is at best drifting.
What can we do about it?
Firstly, we have got to vote at Senedd elections. The Senedd has a far bigger influence on our day-to-day lives than Westminster and it’s not good enough that only 50 per cent of us turn out to allow 25 years of incompetence to keep on trundling down the track.
Secondly, Plaid Cymru have got to ask whether their arrangement with Labour is really delivering for rural (or any part of) Wales. Plaid members and supporters need to really pin their party down on this one.
And thirdly our councils must use all the tools they have to reinvigorate our economy. It’s no use whingeing and bleating about lack of government money because there isn’t any. Develop a realistic vision of things that we can do that will create and support jobs.
Without massive infrastructure investment, Ceredigion will always be isolated. We will have small and medium enterprises but probably not have major manufacturing or services. But we have a beautiful environment and it has to work for us. In reality that means farming and tourism. Right now both industries are being subjected to punishment beatings.
Instead of taxing tourism into the ground why not support it? Why not give all farmers the opportunity to diversify into tourism with an easy stream lined planning process?
Why not smarten up Aberystwyth, just like Aberaeron or Cardigan, to provide a focus for tourism? Make it a town that people want to come to for a good day out.
And why oh why has our planning system become so dysfunctional, slow and expensive? This has happened in the last eight years. Multiple agencies or branches of agencies weigh in with no co-ordination. It is said that some planning decisions are being out sourced to South Africa! How on earth can that make sense or represent valuable use of our taxes?
Someone needs to ask whether all these planning hoops are really necessary; are they achieving anything? Because planning delays are going to end up costing jobs.
Finally let’s stop playing off tourism against homes for local people. With a modicum of vision there is ample opportunity for both. Grasp it!