PLAID Cymru Assembly Member Simon Thomas will deliver a speech later today on the future of the agriculture industry in Wales during the Agriculture Conference and Learning Fair at Gelli Aur Campus, Coleg Sir Gâr.
In his speech, Simon Thomas warns London politicians not to seek to reverse devolution in the process of leaving the European Union.
Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Mid and West AM Simon Thomas, said:
“Agriculture in Wales is facing the most challenging situation since World War II, and certainly no-one today can recall such a volatile situation or a period of greater uncertainty about the future of the industry.
“Many of these challenges arise from the decision to leave the European Union but some result from changes in the way we eat, trade and regard our countryside and environment. Not the least of these is climate change.
“With this in mind, I believe it is extremely important for us to seek the best ways of supporting young people in agriculture and making agriculture an attractive industry for young people.
“We shall need ideas and new blood to tackle these challenges, and I am very keen for the Welsh Government and the National Assembly to encourage young people into agriculture.
“The agriculture industry, and the wider food and drink industry, is vital in Wales for our economy, our way of life, and for the health and welfare of our population.
“For me, agriculture, and the opportunity it provides us to ensure sustainable stewardship of our countryside, is the foundation stone of nation building.”
In his speech, Simon Thomas said:
“Agriculture is the sector facing the greatest uncertainty following the decision to leave the EU.
“There is uncertainty regarding funding the sector post-Brexit, trade deals post-Brexit, and who will make the decisions on laws and policies for the sector post-Brexit – Wales, as at present, or will London seek a power grab?
“We comprise about 5% of the UK’s population, but we receive almost 10% of European expenditure in these countries under the CAP. This reflects how much of Wales is agriculturally disadvantaged compared with other areas. We must struggle to retain every penny.
“Trade and exports must also be defended – fighting for full customs-free access to European markets and ensuring that farmers face no barriers to trade.
“I am of the opinion that Wales, through the National Assembly, must agree to any external trade deals before they are signed. This would ensure that these deals would not be detrimental to the interests of our farmers and our environment.
“Similarly, I believe that we must agree on a British framework for agriculture jointly with Scotland, England and Northern Ireland and reject any attempt by London to impose a system on us.
“Agriculture is devolved to Wales and the Welsh people voted in favour of this in our referendum in 2011. The referendum to leave the EU was not a referendum to take powers away from the Assembly.
“It is unclear at present how much input the Welsh Government and the National Assembly for Wales will have into this process.”
He laid stress on a new entrants scheme for the sector:
“I and Plaid Cymru have just succeeded in securing £6m for a grant scheme for young farmers over the next two years to ensure new entrants into the industry which will support the sector’s long-term future.
“This forms part of our attempt to ensure that the sector is ready to face the challenges of Brexit and wider demographic changes.
“Part of my vision for a sustainable, independent Wales is that we invest in tomorrow’s generation today, since they are the ones who will build and develop our abundant natural resources, and do so in a manner which will set a pattern for the whole world.”