LAst month we held our fantastically well supported and successful breakfasts across the country (a big thanks to all who made it happen and all who joined in!) One important element of breakfast week is our event in the senedd in Cardiff, a gathering of politicians and movers and shakers in the industry and it is when the president sets out his thoughts, his aspirations and also some fears and concerns for agriculture.
this year I decided that I wanted to offer some additional messages to the assembled guests, many of whom were civil servants and people we need to influence often. It was just too good an opportunity to miss.
I wanted those present to raise their heads from their desks and understand how farmers felt and how they should be admired for what they do. I wanted to compare them to other business people and
I wanted to break some of the negative thinking that I see all
too often in many meetings and interactions.
Personally, this was my 4th Farmhouse breakfast and of
course it potentially was our last as members of the european Union. A time of unprecedented change and uncertainty.
but over the last few years I’ve seen an industry that is not happy, an industry that feels it isn’t being listened to, an industry that feels exposed and an industry that is fearful for its future.
but this industry is like no other I have worked in before. this is an Industry of primary producers who know the details of their business inside out and I regularly have conversations with farmers about market prices, supply chains both upstream and downstream, exchange rates, global agricultural trends, margins, percentages and with some, even the unit cost of electricity at different times of the day.
In my experience of other industries nobody has such detailed understanding of such a
wide range of factors that impact their business. Most business people in this country don’t know what electricity tariff they are on – some don’t even know who supplies their
but farmers, on top of their game, know to the penny what is what when it comes to
running their businesses. And they do that whilst producing top quality produce to the highest of animal welfare standards.
but in spite of all this, I am often in meetings with other organisations who tell me how farmers needed to be more efficient, how they need to do more for the environment, how they needed to stop damaging our landscape, how they needed to follow the rules on this that and the other, how they needed to stop being reliant on support at every turn. And even how ideas like rewilding are the best thing since
A lot of that advice of course was coming from people who have spent very little, if any, time on a farm. It comes from
people who have little understanding of the impact of their ideas and even less understanding of the practical implications of changes being proposed. It came from
people that needed to be challenged.
the message I gave was to ask each and everyone present
to do their best to protect and reinforce the good name of farmers and farming in wales. to remind people of their essential and valuable contribution to our nation. to not just think, narrowly, of farmers as food producers, but to recognise the contribution as stewards of our land and the vital contribution they make
to our rural economy. And to respect them for the business people that they truly are.
If we are to build the right policies for the future we must ensure farmers stay on the land, we must allow them and help them to do what they do best. but to do that some ideas and misconceptions in some circles really do need to be challenged and corrected. I
just hope the message got through.