A View from the Political Scene

This year has already seen significant changes to Welsh politics with more to come with the General Election on the horizon. 

Political lobbying is an important part of the activities of the Farmers’ Union of Wales. Our meetings with key politicians enables us to discuss the issues that affect our members, Welsh agriculture and the Welsh rural economy with those who make the decisions that impact our daily lives. The ability to share the knowledge and expertise of our members, staff and policy team with decision makers in both the Welsh and UK Governments is essential to our ability to make a difference. 

Party conferences are an excellent opportunity to reach a wider audience within political parties, and the Union has used the spring conference season to hold joint fringe events with NFU Cymru to discuss the pitfalls of the proposed Sustainable Farming Scheme here in Wales. We’ve been delighted that our events have been very well attended at the Welsh Conservative and Plaid Cymru conferences and we were also welcomed by the delegates at the Liberal Democrat conference.  

Our events resulted in lively discussions over the intricacies of the SFS and the changes that need to be made if the scheme is to work. At the Plaid Cymru conference last weekend, I also took part in a panel discussion on the subject of  “Sustainable farming and the challenges and opportunities for rural Wales”. This was a great opportunity to share some personal perspectives and FUW experience with delegates and elected politicians. 

The past few weeks have also seen the election of a new leader of the Labour Party in Wales, Vaughan Gething MS, who was then appointed as our First Minister. I have no doubt that Vaughan Gething has a very clear vision for Wales but it needs to also be a plan that includes the needs of rural Wales. We look forward to meeting the new First Minister soon. Equally as important, will be our relationship with the new Cabinet Secretary for Climate Change and Rural Affairs, Huw Irranca-Davies. 

We have had several meetings and farm visits with Huw Irranca-Davies in the past. I would go as far as to say there has been a sense of relief at his appointment as our new Minister. There could not have been a more knowledgeable Senedd Member appointed to this role and with luck he will be able to hit the ground running in terms of delivering some of the changes that we need. I am very much looking forward to working with him. It is no small task to resolve the many problems with the SFS but luckily for the new Minister the industry is motivated and focused on getting the SFS right for all farmers in Wales.

The next political change to hit us will be the UK general election, whenever this may be. The Prime Minister has alluded to ‘the second half of the year’ as the probable date and despite meeting with our President recently he did not let Ian in on the secret!  We wait in anticipation for what is sure to be a challenging election for all the political parties here in Wales with the number of constituencies falling from 40 to 32. What is clear is that this General Election will have a significant impact upon the issues that we in the FUW campaign upon on a daily basis and as such, our lobbying must continue in Cardiff and Westminster.