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Welsh Government shouldn’t blame ‘inefficient’ farmers for its policy choices

Instead of putting forward a positive post-Brexit vision, Welsh Government is claiming inefficient and non-resilient farmers make its preferred policy changes inevitable, says Llyr Gruffydd, Plaid Cymru’s Shadow Rural Affairs Secretary.

These are testing times for everyone involved in the farming industry.

 

The existential threat from Brexit, the subsequent proposals in Wales to end basic payments and more recently a sharp spike in anti-meat propaganda have all cast a long shadow over the sector.

 

The feeling of despondency was palpable when I visited the Welsh Dairy Show in October. By the time of the Royal Welsh Winter Show this had intensified and during my recent tour of Welsh livestock auctions, the despondency for many had become outright despair.

 

This isn’t helped in Wales when we have a Minister who, instead of framing the need for change with a positive vision, constantly resorts to a tired criticism that things must change because our farmers are not being efficient and resilient enough.

 

Talking down the industry is making things worse.

 

Appalled

To add salt to the wounds, many of us were appalled at the Welsh Government’s response to last year’s dry weather.

 

Instead of bringing forward proposals to source and support the acquisition of additional fodder, its response was to offer financial support to a farming charity.

 

As worthy as that is, it was a public declaration that the Welsh Government was expecting a charity to pick up the pieces for its own failure to support Welsh farmers.

 

Agriculture is an industry where mental health issues have always been much more prominent than anyone would wish.

 

Despite many campaigns to raise awareness and offer support, the nature of the business often means farmers work in isolation.

 

Depression

 

This, combined with a precarious and uncertain future leaves farmers exposed to the risk of depression and even suicide.

 

The statistics tell their own story.

 

Great strides have been made to move the issue of mental health among farmers up the agenda.

 

Many men have traditionally found it difficult to discuss their own mental health issues but this is now, thankfully, changing.

 

I’ve been open in discussing my own mental health issues and would urge others to open up and seek support if they too are struggling.

 

Proud

 

That’s easier said than done, I know. Many farmers remain too proud to look for help, whether it’s their own personal health or a wider financial problem that’s at stake.

 

In addition, many rural areas do not have the support groups or networks that might be available in more urban areas.

 

For many farmers, the specific economic uncertainty is ongoing and this inevitably plays on people’s minds as they consider their future.

 

That’s why it’s disappointing, to say the least, that the Welsh Government has so far failed to step up to the plate when it comes to ensuring at least some stability and certainty for Welsh farmers through retaining a basic payment in post-Brexit Wales.

 

Leadership

 

At a time when we need strong leadership from our Government and an unwavering commitment to our farming sector, this washing of hands is difficult to defend.

 

There seems little understanding of the pressure facing the sector.

 

Welsh farmers deserve better from a Government that has done little to reassure them that they understand their plight.

 

Llyr can be found tweeting at @LlyrGruffydd


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