Plaid Cymru has pledged that if it came into power in May’s Welsh Assembly elections it would take steps to stop council-owned farms from being sold off.
Describing them as “a national asset” under threat due to severe budget cuts by the UK and Welsh governments, Shadow Rural Affairs Minister, Llyr Gruffydd, says the party would prioritise efforts to protect council-owned farms for future generations and develop a strategy to enhance opportunities for new entrants into farming.
It would work with local authorities and other partners, including the farming unions, Young Farmers’ Clubs, the Tenant Farmers Association and agricultural colleges to protect council farms.
“We know that the financial pressure on local authorities makes the future of council farms hugely vulnerable. Councils are under huge pressure to sell them off to bring in income to pay for other services,” he said.
“That is why we must act swiftly to protect them. There is a real danger that this is selling off an important part of the future of farming.
“Council farms are important gateways into the industry, particularly for younger entrants who would otherwise not have an opportunity to farm.”
Plaid would also be particularly keen to put these farms to more creative use when the opportunities arise.
“The possibility of working with agricultural colleges to give opportunities to implement new and innovative approaches to farming could be part of the mix,” he added.
“We have already seen the excellent work the National Trust has done with Wales Young Farmers’ Clubs offering bursaries to young farmers at Llyndy Isaf in Snowdonia, giving them valuable experience of farm management as they start their farming careers.
“That is the kind of creative thinking, albeit on a longer term basis, that could be part of our approach to council farms in the future.
“A Plaid government would bring all the stakeholders together to draw up a strategy to put our national asset to good use.
“Once they are gone, they will be gone for good, so we need to act to protect them now.”