Western Mail Country & Farming Column
April 26th 2017

Last week I had the great pleasure of visiting a farm in Llwyncelyn, Rhondda.

During my time as an MEP, I have done many farm visits in different parts of the country and to different kinds of farms. This was the first time in my home area. People don't generally connect the Rhondda Valleys with farming, but of course there are farms on the mountains. Farmers I met from the area explained how farming the urban fringe brought particular problems, but their broader concerns mirrored those of their counterparts across Wales.

Since we first joined the EEC, the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) has shaped agriculture in Wales. As the UK government begins the process of leaving the EU, we have to ensure that we achieve an agricultural policy suited to Wales's needs.

That means full, unfettered access to the Single Market, seeing as 90% of Welsh agricultural exports go to the EU. Remaining EU compliant will be essential to maintain that trade.

But it's not just about volume. EU Geographic Indicators have ensured top quality produce and have been invaluable in promoting Welsh food. These indicators proved controversial in the talks on an EU-US trade deal and there will be issues in future trade deals. We need certainty that they won't be lost.

The main task now is to ensure that Wales's voice is not drowned out in the crowd. We have to ensure that our priorities and our needs are addressed. The current uncertainty brings worry, but rather than just speculating on the future we have to make it happen.

Agriculture is a devolved issue, of course. Plaid Cymru is demanding that all areas that are currently devolved should remain so, including agriculture. The people of Wales should decide on the Welsh agricultural policy.

In the National Assembly earlier this month, Plaid Cymru won support for an EU Continuation Bill for Wales. This will not secure future access to CAP funding, but it will ensure that Westminster cannot impose detrimental new measures in devolved policy areas.

I was very proud to hear that Wayne Jones, who farms Llwyncelyn Farm with three generations of his family, is a prize winning Sheep Farmer. Despite the challenges of recent years, we have huge talent in Wales that we often don't recognise, let alone celebrate. With all that faces us now, we have to use every ounce of that talent to protect the Welsh national interest.

Ends

Photo: Jill Evans