[caption id="attachment_259" align="aligncenter" width="400"] Emyr Jones, President[/caption]
In wishing each one of you a prosperous 2012, I would also like to take this opportunity to thank you for your support during my first six months as President.
It is a massive honour to have been appointed President of a union whose principles have always mirrored my own, and to have the opportunity to fight for an industry which is so important to each one of us.
It is natural at this time of year to look back on the previous 12 months and wonder what will change over the coming year.
On a positive note, farmers can be thankful for prices which are so much closer to what they should be compared with the average over past decade.
However, as any business knows, better prices alone do not equal better profit and rises in production costs have severely undermined margins across the industry, leaving the vast majority still completely reliant on CAP payments.
With the Euro-Sterling exchange rate being a main factor in maintaining livestock prices, how the Eurozone crisis will develop over the coming months is a major concern which is beyond our control in terms of receipts from the marketplace.
However, input costs are something which we do have a little more control over and, for many of us, simply assessing where we currently stand in terms of precise input costs would be a major step forward.
Those who have undertaken such assessments and have not identified at least some room for improvement - however small - are few and far between. Therefore, I believe that, in 2012 and beyond, properly assessing such costs must be an increasing focus for the industry and one for which we must take responsibility ourselves.
In this context, I believe that there is much that many livestock farmers can learn from the dairy sector which, despite recent improvements, continues to suffer from farmgate prices which do not reflect input costs and a fair standard of living.
These are issues which the FUW will continue to target over the coming year as well as tackling the numerous disappointing developments which have emerged over the past 12 months - the decision to downgrade the Welsh Government's rural affairs department and devolve animal health to another ministerial portfolio; the complete abandonment of recognition of Wales' LFA areas; and the decision to delay an announcement on the north Pembrokeshire badger cull pending a pointless review of the science, to name just a few.
Sadly, these decisions have been made in spite of the hard work of the FUW which has continually been at the forefront of the fight for what is best for Welsh agriculture, work which will continue in 2012 and beyond.
However, compared with previous years, a new focus has emerged in the form of the imminent reform of the Common Agricultural Policy and the need to influence developments at every stage in the negotiation process.
Over the past year we have attended countless meetings with politicians and civil servants both in Wales and in Europe in order to shape thinking over the future of the CAP and it was therefore gratifying to hear George Lyon MEP stating at our autumn conference that the FUW had already been instrumental in changing the shape of the Regulations in a way which is positive for Wales.
While such changes must be welcomed, our work in influencing thinking at an EU level has only just begun and must continue and accelerate in 2012 if we are to further shape the policy in a way which does not displace genuine farmers and undermine food production at a time when severe global food shortages and starvation are imminent.
To this end it is essential that the EU recognises the massive damage that their current proposals will cause, not least due to the proposed introduction of greening measures into Pillar 1, and the dire implications of abandoning our current entitlements and recreating them on the basis of areas declared in 2014.
To put it bluntly, the current proposals do nothing which is in line with the key priorities identified by the European Commission and Parliament and to top it all will be an administrative nightmare for the Welsh Government.
While there is much we can and will fight to change in terms of the future CAP - including lobbying our own Welsh MEPs, who now have co-decision making powers - it is certainly inevitable that some form of flat-rate single payment will be introduced over a transition period after 2013.
Since 2009, a priority for the FUW has been to allow the industry to assess the possible impacts of various different payment models, both by producing our own modelling data and lobbying Government to do the same.
It is only with this information that the industry will be able to properly assess what is likely to be best for Wales and we are committed to ensuring efforts are stepped up to produce as much information as possible in 2012 so farmers can judge the impacts of various systems and make their own minds up as to what is best.
While dealing with this, and the diverse range of other issues which impact on members, will continue to be central to the union's work, a priority which is second to none is the essential services we provide to members on a day-to-day basis, through our network of county Offices.
Whether it is overarching issues which relate to European or domestic policies and problems, or the huge volumes of unique cases dealt with on behalf of members by our county office staff, the FUW will continue to do all it can in 2012 to fight for the interests of members.
Without the dedication of staff and FUW committee members at every level that work would be impossible and I would, therefore, like to take this opportunity to thank all those who have worked so hard over the past year to further the interests of FUW members and Welsh agriculture and wish you all the best for the coming year.