Friday 23 February, 2024

Farming matters: Samuel Kurtz - 'Welsh farming is in need of a friend'

As the Royal Welsh Winter Fair comes to a close, signalling the beginning of the festive season where we can safely eat a mince pie without fear of judgement, it is important to reflect on the event and highlight the many challenges currently facing Wales’ rural communities and farming industries.

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Farming matters: Samuel Kurtz - 'Welsh farming is in need of a friend'

We have seen the recent reports of dairy farmers speaking candidly about the very real threat to their industry.

In Wales, dairy farming faces an even more uncertain future, thanks to policies from the Labour Government in Cardiff Bay.

Earlier this month, a Labour Senedd Member, representing Wales' largest rural region, called for dairy farmers to ‘find another business' if they are under bTB restrictions.

This showed a complete lack of empathy for farming families suffering with the consequences of bTB due to the inactivity of the Welsh Government.

Our dairy sector producers provide some of the healthiest, greenest products available.

Yet, when we see global factors impacting input costs, Welsh farmers need a Welsh Government which is going to support the industry, not saddle them with tougher regulations and further burden.

Nitrate Vulnerable Zone (NVZ) regulations continue to be a cumbersome burden and there remains much uncertainty around them.

Announcement

Since the Welsh Government's announcement last month that NVZ regulations are being altered to lessen the impact on Welsh food production, it is unclear to Wales' farmers on what further actions must be taken and what evidence must be provided to meet these new criteria.

I welcome the rowing back on the derogation limit but farmers desperately need clarity from the Welsh Government, because at present, it is as clear as mud.

The continuous black cloud over dairy farming in Wales is bTB and the refusal by the Welsh Government to get serious to try and eradicate it from Wales.

Unlike in England, Welsh farmers are unable to isolate in-calf reactors, allowing the to calve before the dam is culled.

I have heard some real horror stories of the physical and mental impact this has had on our farmers.

There is no compassion in this act; not for the dam, the calf and certainly not for the farmer.

I have made it my mission to get the Welsh Government to afford Welsh farmers the same flexibility as our English counterparts, to allow our farmers, who know their animals and farming systems best, to choose how in-calf reactors are culled.

There is also the uncertainty when it comes to future farm support in Wales.

Will it be appropriately funded and will it be a policy which works for Wales' farmers?

The Labour Government's persistence with the arbitrary 10 per cent tree planting target in the Sustainable Farming Scheme is a sticking point.

A one-size-fits-all approach which will not work and will see good, productive land, handed over to tree planting.

According to Farmers Union of Wales, if all current Welsh emissions were to be offset by tree planting, then it would require an area around twice the size of Wales to be planted with trees.

Only this month I challenged the Welsh Minister on her Government's shambolic handling of the Habitat Wales Scheme (HWS) - a one-year replacement scheme to Glastir.

Incorrect information such as mapping, no finalised budget and no specific support for organic has meant the HWS has been riddled with errors from day one so there has been limited interest in the scheme.

However, what concerns me the most is that this perceived lack of interest in the scheme will be an excuse for the Welsh Government to cut the rural affairs budget, having already slashed it in half earlier this year.

Optimism I am an optimist, though. I believe in Wales' farmers and our fantastic agricultural produce.

We have dedicated and diligent farming unions supporting those who tend to the land.

The best youth movement supporting the next generation in the Young Farmers.

Everyone in the industry should be immensely proud of what you contribute.

As a farmer's son, I am proud of the efforts of my own father to produce high quality, environmentally sustainable beef.

As the industry looks to tackle these challenges head on, it is evident that farming needs a friend.

They are not going to get that friend from the Labour Party, who have governed Wales for a quarter of a century.

That friend to farming is the Welsh Conservatives and I will continue to stand up to ensure farming in Wales gets the support it deserves.

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