James Price and Kathryn Morris with the bursary judges (from left) FUW council’s Pembrokeshire delegate Dafydd Williams, Alun Edwards and FUW deputy president Glyn Roberts.Strong views about the future of farming were expressed when two Aberystwyth University first-year agriculture students went head-to-head in the final interviews for the top awards in the Farmers' Union of Wales higher education bursary scheme.
James Price and Kathryn Morris.Nineteen-year-olds Kathryn Morris of The Belan, Berriew, near Welshpool, and James Price of Ackhill Farm, Presteigne, were shortlisted for interview by a panel of judges during this week's Royal Welsh Winter Fair in Builth Wells.
Both live on beef and sheep farms and submitted 1,000-word essays with their entry forms. Kathryn chose the topic: "Are we a nation of park keepers or food producers?" while James opted for "Should farmers be food producers or fuel producers?"
James was chosen as the winner of the £1,000 bursary by a three-man judges' panel and Kathryn was awarded £500 as the runner-up.
James spends as much time as he can working on his home farm and for other local farmers. "I have a passion for farming, especially livestock, and it is the only career I have ever wanted," he said.
Representing Presteigne YFC, he has won the county federation's junior stockman of the year competition and has been the club's treasurer.
His essay explained that, with climate change at the top of the agenda for governments across the world, bio fuels are becoming an increasingly popular source of energy, often replacing food crops or using products previously used for food.
"However, with an ever-increasing population the demand for food is inevitably going to increase so farmers are going to need to produce more food off less land in an environmentally friendly way.
"Maize being grown for bio digesters is a very controversial topic as many people think that it would be better to feed the maize to livestock to produce food than to put it into a bio digester.
"However, the subsidies on the energy produced from the digesters are so large that the maize is worth far more money to them, as an energy crop, than it is to livestock farmers as a feed. This raises the question - is bio fuel a viable option without the subsidies placed on it by government?
"Overall I think that there are many opportunities presented to farmers by being energy producers and these should be considered and kept in mind with every decision.
"I do, however, feel that food production is more important as there are already people in the world who are short of food and this will only get worse as populations increase.
"Bio fuels are a good addition to the agricultural industry but should not become our main goal."
Kathryn has been a keen farmer from an early age - "helping on the farm even before I could read". Before starting her agriculture and countryside management course at Aberystwyth she took a gap year to gain practical experience of taking responsibility and making management decision on the family farm.
She also runs a small flock of pedigree Texel ewes and is an active member of Berriew YFC.
In her essay she urged the agriculture industry to see itself as both park keepers and food producer. "It is not in the interest of farmers to pollute the very land that their livelihoods depend on.
"However, the pace at which the industry develops would be much more rapid if attitudes were to change. If farmers were provided with the education and marketing skills they would be able to sell their produce to local people at affordable and fair prices.
"Every item of food would be traceable and the chain would be much shorter. It would create greater revenues for agriculture but importantly would drastically reduce carbon emissions by decreasing food miles and the climatic issues that this causes for British wildlife."
FUW agricultural education and training committee chairman Alun Edwards complimented both finalists on their thought-provoking entries and said the judges were looking forward to following their respective future careers in agriculture.
"There continues to be a problem in our schools and colleges with how agriculture is perceived so it's a huge responsibility of ours to promote the industry as a career.
"Both our finalists have shown there is potentially a good career in farming and it's great to see they're also interested in their local communities and giving something back."
During the Winter Fair the union launched its bursary scheme for further education students which will also have a £1,000 award for the winner and £500 for the runner-up.
Application forms can be obtained from FUW Head Office at Llys Amaeth, Plas Gogerddan, Aberystwyth SY23 3BT (Tel: 01970 820820) or from any of the union's county offices.
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