by Alan Davies, FUW managing director
THIS is a really busy time for the FUW just as it is for most of our members. Our county staff are deeply involved in helping members with submitting their basic payment scheme applications – the policy team are still working to understand why some of last year’s payments have not yet been made and are supporting appeals to penalties from last year’s payments. And, of course, we are moving forward following the results of the election early this month. We are firmly engaged in the Welsh Government strategic framework for agriculture programme which is now taking on a key role in helping to shape the future for our sector. This positive development brings together all the unions and national bodies associated with agriculture in Wales to work in a collaborative fashion for the common good and is to be welcomed. We have held Assembly election hustings events in all counties and nearly all political parties have engaged with us in recent weeks and months to help shape their own manifestos in relation to agriculture and the rural economy. We have also had several meetings with Police and Crime Commissioner candidates who are concerned about rural crime. But by the time you read this, lambing will be over for most and the result of the election will be known. That means that we will be fully engaged with the new government to establish (or re-establish) relations that will drive forward the agricultural sector successfully and in a way that supports our members. There are huge challenges ahead and we will not shirk in raising them with Government as soon as we can. We set out our requirements in our manifesto last year and nothing has changed in terms of our expectations. In fact, we probably have more that will need to be outlined and developed with the new administration. One area of high-level concern to me though is that I really hope the next administration will truly recognise the importance of the rural economy and agriculture to the overall health and wellbeing of Wales. If they do, they will need to ensure that the cabinet representation is made as a minister position and not as a deputy minister as we have recently seen. Hopefully, our recent lobbying efforts will bring some positive returns but of course we must be prepared to deal with the government in any shape that materialises. It will be an interesting time as we move into the new priorities of a new administration balanced against the uncertainties of a EU referendum debate and a result that is far from predictable. We have been supportive of continued membership of the EU and will continue to be so right up until the day of the referendum. As part of the Britain Stronger in Europe campaign we will work to deliver debates across the country and to provide as much information as we can to ensure that all members understand the ramifications of the decision they will vote for on June 23. Details of the FUW debates across Wales are on the front page. We will also work with other unions in Wales to promote the Stronger in Europe message across Wales. One group I’d be keen to see more engaged are our younger people. The evidence of recent opinion polls suggests that they are the least likely to vote yet they are the most positive about remaining as EU members. Whilst I hope the result of the referendum is positive I can assure you that whatever happens we will continue to fight to gain the best situation possible for our members and also for the wider rural economy of Wales.