A delegation of Farmers’ Union of Wales Meirionnydd members and union officials including president Emyr Jones and deputy president Glyn Roberts travel to Brussels next week to learn more about the latest developments on agricultural issues from a European perspective and to promote Welsh food produce at the European Parliament.
The visit, facilitated by Jill Evans MEP, will be an opportunity for members to better understand the work of the European Parliament and will further provide an opportunity to celebrate the leading reputation of Welsh farm produce at a breakfast function at the Parliament on Tuesday March 4.
FUW Meirionnydd county executive officer Huw Jones said: “The visit will include meetings with Welsh MEPs, head of European affairs at the Welsh Government EU office Robert Parry and rural policy adviser and deputy head of office Andrew Aggett.
“There will also be a tour of the EU Parliament, a visit to the Parliamentarium and we are, of course, very much looking forward to the breakfast function with produce supplied by Llaeth y Llan fruit yoghurts, Shirgar butter portions from Gower View Foods, dry cured Brecon gammon bacon by Castell Howell Foods Ltd, Brecon pork sausages, Welsh Mustard manufactured by The Welsh Mustard Co Ltd at Aberaeron as well as Perl Wen and Caerffili Cheese from Caws Cenarth.”
The visit will take place just over two months before the European elections on May 22. “The FUW delegation will emphasise the huge importance and benefits that the agricultural industry in Wales receives from membership of the EU, and that it is questionable whether there would be similar support for our industry from our own Governments if the UK decides not to remain part of the EU after the possible referendum in 2017,” said Mr Jones.
“Wales’ rural communities receive approximately 400 million euros per annum from the CAP which in turn generates hundreds of thousands of pounds without which our economies in Wales rural areas, towns and villages would collapse. Our membership of the EU is also essential in providing us with access to European markets which also delivers billions to our economy.”
Mr Jones acknowledged that there were huge frustrations regarding some EU rules within the farming industry, but expressed concern regarding the perception of EU rules by some.
“Whilst some ridiculous rules such as the burial ban for fallen stock come directly from Europe, most of the rules which frustrate us are either created or gold-plated by the Welsh or UK Government - when you speak to farmers from other areas they often don’t recognise a problem because their governments don’t have an appetite for implementing the rules above their lowest level.
“Brussels does not have a monopoly on creating overly restrictive rules - we have plenty of people in the UK who are experts at it. A vote to leave the EU could mean we lose our funding, lose our access to the EU market into which we export a huge proportion of our produce, but keep the ridiculous rules. ”
The delegation will also underline concerns that the Common Agricultural Policy has moved further away from being a “Common” policy.
“The flexibility introduced under the last CAP negotiations means we are about as far away from a level playing field and common policy as we have been for many years. Wales has no LFA payments and the highest rate of modulation in the EU at 15%, while our main competitors have LFA payments, headage payments, and far lower modulation,” added Mr Jones.