Unions voice family farm concerns
Speaking on the eve of the Royal Welsh Spring Festival, Farmers' Union of Wales president Emyr Jones said that between May 22 and 25 people across the EU will elect 751 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) who, alongside the Council of Ministers and the European Commission, will decide policies affecting our daily lives, more so for farmers than any other section of the community.
The National Farmers' Union also expressed concerns for family farms as it publicised a long-established and thriving family farm of in Staffordshire which is set to be 'decimated' by HS2 plans, destroying 15 out of 19 buildings and forcing the owners and their family to make another life for themselves.
A video made by the NFU shows the Barnes family’s story in efforts to bring awareness to the negative impact HS2 is set to have on more than a hundred farming businesses along Phase 1 of the route.
John and Rosemary Barnes run Packington Moor Farm, Lichfield with their son and daughter-in-law following two generations of John’s ascendants.
Though they are disappointed that their plans for further investment into their business have been put on hold, they remain realistic about the future with the HS2 plans in mind.
John Barnes said: “We have a flock of 200 sheep, 450 acres of cereals, a wedding venue, a farm shop and a café. HS2 will cut our farm in half and the bulk of its infrastructure will be demolished, as well as my son’s house.”
Rosemary Barnes added: “HS2 is destroying our life as we know it; we are prepared to make another life but we need certainty of the future and appropriate compensation to go with that.”
This is the second video in the NFU’s three-part HS2 Impacts series, which is part of the organisation’s efforts to ensure farmer’s needs, outlined at the end of each video, are met at every stage of the HS2 development.
Emyr Jones was launching the FUW's latest campaign "Supporting Family Farms Since 1955" that coincides with this year's UN International Year of Family Farming which is highlighting the potential family farmers have to eradicate hunger, preserve natural resources and promote sustainable development.
He added: "Given the diversity of climates, topography, cultures and economies across the EU, it is no surprise that even the most pro-Europeans can become frustrated with Brussels dictates which make no sense in a region such as Wales, while those bitterly opposed to the EU have a field day blaming all the ills of the world on our membership.
"Yet, despite the focus in the UK press on the issue of EU membership and where the balance of powers between Member States and Brussels should lie, reporting of the daily deliberations of the EU Parliament regarding issues which we might support, or bitterly oppose, remains scant at the most.
"This leaves members of the general public detached from the politics and policies they so often bemoan, allowing pro and anti-EU politicians to blame the EU whenever it suits their agendas to do so, and Governments to hide their own insatiable appetites for red tape behind the convenient scapegoat of EU Regulations.
"With agriculture taking the most significant portion of the European budget, and bearing the brunt of so many disproportionate and costly regulations, Wales’ farmers must consider carefully the implications of all the options now being discussed."
Those options are: to allow the EU to continue on its present course, which many believe will lead to a United States of Europe; to try and restore it to something more akin to the Common Market we voted to remain a part of in 1975; or to pull out altogether, leading to a full restoration of sovereignty but with no guaranteed access to our most important markets and the common agricultural policies which are part and parcel of that access.
"The FUW’s current position is simply that we support EU membership - hardly surprising given that successive UK Governments have made it clear that they wish to increase food imports from outside the EU and dismantle the CAP - a policy which provides essential incomes for Welsh farming families and ensures plentiful, safe and affordable food for EU citizens," said Mr Jones.
"And, of course, we need only look back to the 2001 FMD outbreak and the accompanying export ban to see the impact that being closed out of the common market has on prices.
"However, Welsh farmers have much to be aggrieved about when it comes to the suffocating and costly bureaucracy that emanates from the EU, and many wish for a return to the halcyon days when food production and common sense took priority over paperwork and illogical rules.
"Whatever our views, we must weigh up the implications of all options with our heads as well our hearts. Welsh agriculture and our rural communities currently rely on the CAP and access to EU markets, and those who wish to see us operating outside the EU must provide valid economic assessments and policies which set out how a collapse in rural incomes and food production would be avoided.
"We must also be aware that a renegotiation of powers could centre on the renationalisation of agricultural policies, with the focus not on reducing burdensome EU Regulations, but on implementing key recommendations from the 2005 Treasury/Defra 'Vision for the CAP' - a blueprint for dismantling agricultural support and increasing food imports.
"Again, we need solid proposals and assurances that any renationalisation of powers will not lead to the collapse of Welsh agriculture and rural incomes.
"Those assessments, analyses and policies must have at the heart of them the Welsh family farm: farms which have the highest productivity per hectare, are responsible for the overwhelming majority of Welsh food production and form the backbone of our rural communities."
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