[caption id="attachment_4345" align="aligncenter" width="400"] From left, FUW deputy president Emyr Jones, president Gareth Vaughan, deputy agricultural policy director Rhian Nowell-Phillips, UK farming minister Jim Paice, agricultural policy director Nick Fenwick and Dwyfor Meirionnydd MP Elfyn Llwyd.[/caption]
Farmers' Union of Wales president Gareth Vaughan today (Tuesday June 7) praised the Westminster government for publishing a draft bill for a Groceries Market Ombudsman following years of lobbying by the union for such an appointment.
During a meeting organised by Dwyfor Meirionnydd MP Elfyn Llwyd, Mr Vaughan congratulated the minister and urged him to ensure an Act with powers to deal with abuses of power by supermarkets is granted Royal Ascent as soon as was possible.
"A good relationship between retailers and suppliers in the grocery market is important and we believe that all parties will benefit greatly from an independent body to monitor and regulate the sector."
On CAP reform, the FUW delegation told Mr Paice it was broadly supportive of the Dess Report, the European Parliament's draft report on the future of the CAP, but had major concerns about the impact of "greening measures" on food production when massive global food shortages were being predicted.
"We emphasised that any such measures must not adversely impact on production," said Mr Vaughan. "They should complement it by encouraging efficiencies which have environmental benefits and also lead to savings.
"We urged the minister to highlight this during talks with other Member States over the future of the CAP."
The FUW representatives drew the minister's attention to the importance of Welsh family farms and the essential contribution they make to food production and maintaining the natural environment.
"We also expressed concern about the impact that factory farms and super dairies would have on rural communities and the public's perception of farming.
"This reflected the view of the FUW's dairy committee which, earlier this year, supported a policy position opposing super dairies on the grounds that they would lower milk prices and drive family farms out of production."
The meeting also discussed a number of aspects pertinent to Wales of the independent Farming Regulation Task Force's recent report and union representatives emphasised the need to implement its recommendations at the earliest opportunity to minimise costs for businesses and government bodies alike.
"As long term campaigners against the EC's disproportionate penalty system, the union also welcomed the recommendations regarding CAP penalties," said Mr Vaughan.
"We pressed the minister to do all he could at an European level to ensure that the final post-2013 CAP regulations were proportionate in terms of administrative errors and inconsequential breaches of complex rules.
"Everybody agrees - whether they are farm inspectors or politicians - that the current penalty regime is completely disproportionate, yet EU auditors continue to bully Member States and regions into making the penalties and rules more and more draconian."
On bovine TB, Mr Vaughan told the minister the length of the Wales-England border, and the importance of cross border trade, made English TB an important issue for Welsh farmers, particularly given the number of cross border farms close to or in areas severely affected by TB.
"Many of our members with land in England are severely affected by this disease and action must be taken in order to reduce its prevalence in both England and Wales.
"Welsh efforts to drive forward with an eradication programme will be severely undermined if a major disease reservoir is allowed to continue to grow in England.
"For this reason, I urged the minister to press on with a badger cull in England which has been shown 'categorically' to be effective, and is still leading to benefits four and a half years after the last English cull came to an end.
"We also emphasised the importance of minimising red tape and costs associated with proposals to allow farmers to cull badgers, and asked that Defra work closely with the Welsh Government in ensuring any actions close to the border of Wales did not have an adverse impact on Welsh farmers."
The delegation also touched on a number of broader issues relating to the rural economy and highlighted the severe impact fuel prices were having for rural businesses.
"We are already paying higher tax because the 4x4 vehicles we rely on are being classed as unnecessary luxuries - in other words Chelsea tractors - in addition to which our rural businesses are being crippled by fuel costs which are higher than in urban areas.
"The reality is that there are no alternatives such as public transport and government should recognise this by reducing costs for rural dwellers, for example by giving them a fuel tax rebate."