AGRICULTURE IS CRUCIAL

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A DELEGATION of FUW officials met with Cabinet Secretary for environment and Rural Affairs Lesley Griffiths to discuss the wider economic and social importance of agriculture to the rural and urban economy as well as the importance of encouraging the next generation into the industry. The meeting was held at Llwyncelyn Lan farm, Llanfyrnach – home of FUW deputy president Brian Thomas who has been farming here since 1988. The delegation then visited Mansel Davies & Son Ltd. to discuss the history and nature of the business and its interrelationship with the agricultural industry and rural economy. Brian Thomas, who farms 280 acres, 30 acres of which is woodland, in north Pembrokeshire, runs a herd of 100 beef shorthorn cattle and a flock of 300 ewes, with cereals also being grown. Speaking after the meeting about why farming matters to our rural economy, FUW deputy president Brian Thomas said: “I would first of all like to thank Lesley Griffiths for meeting us here at my home farm. We had wide ranging discussions on farming matters and used the opportunity to highlight the important role farming plays in our rural economy. “If we are to encourage the next generation to take up farming it has to be viable for them. Looking around here there are only one in eight farms that have children who want to take over the family business. “The average age of farmers in my local area is 60 plus, so we need to put measures in place that ensure these farms have a future for the sake of our rural economy. “I see the future for farming in youth. However, with farm household incomes averaging around £13,000 a year and working hours exceeding 60+ per week – why would they? Due to the nature of the business we are only ever one step away from a crisis. “Our farming businesses provide stability for the rural economy, income for our children and our families and hold communities together. We now have an opportunity to do something great – and that is shaping our own future in terms of markets and legislations, a point we have made clear to the Cabinet Secretary.” Highlighting how important the second and third sector businesses are in making the wheels of our rural economies go round were Stephen and Kaye Mansel Davies of Mansel Davies & Son Ltd. The company was established in 1875 by the late John Davies. Mansel Davies, his son, joined the business in 1900 and the company still uses that name today. The company is now run by Kaye Mansel Davies (chairman), 4th generation, and his son Stephen Mansel Davies (managing director) – the next generation are already involved in the company. They currently employ over 300 people and operate 180 trucks, with all of its employees living within a 40 mile radius of Llanfyrnach. Apart from the local authority and the oil refinery they are the largest employers in Pembrokeshire with an annual turnover just short of £30 million. Stephen Mansel davies highlighted that 90 per cent of the company’s work is linked to agricultural, saying that: “We are the largest milk haulier in Wales, collecting 1.4 million litres per day for seven different buyers and doing UK distribution for a further two buyers. Our total milk or milk products movements comes to about four million litres per day.” The company delivers milk and milk products into processors in Newcastle Emlyn, Llangefni, South Caernarfon, Felinfach, Acton, London, Southampton, Droitwich , Bridgewater, Westbury, North Tawton, Aylesbury, Chester, Severnside and a number of other factories around the UK. Another important sector of the business is the distribution of animal feed in the area. Mansel Davies & Son are also the largest suppliers of ground limestone, which they also spread on to the land for soil neutralisation. Following the meeting with the Cabinet Secretary, Stephen Mansel davies said: “All of those who are involved in government need to understand how important agriculture is to Wales – it’s the only sustainable long term industry we have. “When you look at the numbers employed directly and indirectly into the sector it is far more important than people and government give it credit for. “Agriculture and in particular the dairy industry, has just gone through very hard times with farm gate prices dropping in the region of 30 per cent which is not sustainable. “As a direct result of low milk prices we have seen volumes drop 11 per cent from July 15 to July 16. if managed correctly I think Brexit could bring long term positives to agriculture – the important part will be the management by government of the transition period and the short term.” the union will continue to highlight how much farming matters through regular meetings with key decisions makers, industry stakeholders, as well as governments in Westminster and Cardiff.

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