by Alan Davies, FUW managing director
FOR many the recent warmer days have been a sign that the damp dismal days of winter are now behind us and it is time for a new start and even possibly for a more positive year ahead. this has also coincided with the start of a new political era in Wales and other big political challenges. A new Welsh government has been formed, with many new faces in different appointments and we are actively engaged in developing relations with that new government. Before the assembly elections we called for the creation of a ministerial post to cover rural affairs and with Lesley Griffiths as the Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs we now have a strong focal point within the Cabinet for senior representation. We are delighted that Mrs Griffiths is joining us at the Annual General Meeting of the union on June 13 in order to set out the government’s vision for agriculture but equally importantly to hear from members of many of the challenges currently facing farming in Wales. there’s also a new piece of legislation in Wales that is going to affect many, if not all of us: the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act. the president and I met with the WBFG Commissioner, Sophie Howe, last month and had a very successful discussion identifying a lot a common ground. there is no doubt that the challenge of encouraging the public sector to care more about our environment and long-term well-being is a significant one, but of course it is something that farmers have been doing for centuries. As a result, we will work closely with the commissioner to ensure that the notion of long-term well-being is embedded throughout Wales. We hope that Sophie will join us at our conference in october. the future of the Common Agricultural Policy is also uppermost in our minds, but how we address that will, of course, be determined by the results of the referendum on June 23. If the country votes to stay in Europe we will need to identify the improvements required for the next round of CAP and will also need to start building political alliances in order to communicate those expectations clearly and consistently here in Wales and beyond. on the other hand, if Britain elects to leave the European Union we will of course be faced with the almost blank sheet of paper question of “what happens next?” this will be far more challenging as there is no existing model on offer to comment or critique. We will be starting with a blank sheet of paper in terms of identifying and developing thoughts for the ongoing support of agriculture and rural economies in Wales. Politically this will also see us needing to be more active in terms of engaging with the Westminster government, whilst also working with the government in Cardiff. Irrespective of the outcomes of the referendum we must work harder to ensure that Wales develops a truly sustainable rural economy that delivers viable career options to young people whilst also developing and maintaining our countryside in a sustainable manner. Without doubt, this will be a challenging year but let’s hope the sun keeps shining to ensure that we can approach these challenges with a smile on our faces.