This week, some 30,000 people will visit the Royal Welsh Winter Fair in Llanelwedd. It is another opportunity to showcase the excellent produce we have to offer in Wales and to discuss issues that are important to agriculture and rural Wales.
Of course, leaving the European Union is on everyoneís mind. Thatís why Iíll be there today to take part in an meeting organised by NFU Cymru and the European Parliament about the effects of leaving the EU on agriculture in Wales.
Leaving the EU presents huge challenges for rural Wales. Welsh agricultural policy has been developed within an EU framework, and the EUís Common Agricultural Policy has helped farmers to develop sustainable and dynamic businesses.
In the period 2014 Ė 2020, Wales will receive around £274 million of funding every year in direct payments to farmers. This is in addition to over £80 million each year for the Rural Development Plan. In 2014 -15, direct payments from the EU were on average 81% of net farm profit in Wales. Losing this funding would be extremely damaging, not only to the farmers, but to the whole rural economy that depends on a healthy agricultural sector. There have as yet been no long term guarantees that this level of funding will be maintained.
I know from my years as a Member of the European Parliament that successive UK governments have tried to slash CAP funding when the budget was being renegotiated.
Looking to the future, it is crucial that we develop an agriculture policy suited to Wales and one which ensures we can continue to trade with the rest of Europe. That means staying in the Single Market and Customs Union. Plaid Cymru has demanded that not a single penny should be lost to agriculture and for the UK Government to make a clear commitment to this. We must defend Welsh interests.
If any Western Mail readers are at the Winter Fair today, please join us at 12:30 in the NFU building for a discussion about Brexit and agriculture. I would like to hear your views.