Discussing the future of our rural communities
by Alun Edwards, Meirionnydd Representative on the FUW Education and Training and Hill Farming and Marginal Land Committee
There has never been a more important time for the agricultural sector to strategically ally, by standing up to their critics and get their point accross. So I was very happy to receive an invitation from Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg to join a discussion panel on the future of our rural communities at the Llanrwst National Eisteddfod.
Joining me on the panel were FUW President Glyn Roberts and Non Gwenllian Williams, who is studying agricultural policy for a Ph.D. at Bangor University, and who is a very prominent member of Anglesey YFC. The debate was chaired by a former State veterinarian, and leading anti-nuclear activist, Robat Idris, as vice chairman of the Gymdeithas's rural community group.
It was great to see the Gymdeithas building packed for the event, and Glyn gave an overview of the industry's position in the context of Brexit, and emphasised the importance of agricultural spending to the prosperity of the rural economy.
Non referred to the shift in emphasis in Welsh Government policy, from rewarding food production to supplying "public goods", suggesting that this was going to be challenging for many farmers, but would also provide opportunities for more flexible thinkers.
As usual, my reaction was more personal and emotional! I tried to explain how I live now, with a third of the farm's income from a basic payment, a third from Glastir and the rest from the market; and that I therefore face losing a third of our income as a result of the Brexit and Land recommendations, which would limit my ability to invest in the rural economy. Former Chairman of the Gymdeithas, Heledd Gwyndaf, also expressed emotion when she commented on the ineffectiveness of our Labor Government 's response to the TB crisis in her area, and the resulting cloud looming over community life.
An hour was barely enough to scratch the surface of the subject, and I chose to set a challenge at the end, noting that we had emphasised how vital the agricultural industry was to the continuation of the language and culture in our response to Brexit and our Land, that we must prove our worth. How many times have I heard “my Welsh is not good enough - I fill in forms in English”; and I quoted an example where I used the word "beunyddiol" in a voiceover for Ffermio, and was asked to repeat with the words "bob dydd" as the audience would not understand the first!
We allow the language to decline, and we will be responsible if it dies ... instead let's embrace lifelong learning, refine our language and respect it, and look forward constructively, instead of ignoring growth.
My theme was the same when delivering a presentation on rural mental health the following day to Conwy Cynaliadwy. This Brexit madness has created a world of anxiety, with the emphasis on closing doors and building walls, when our natural Welsh values direct us to building bridges and expansiveness; by alliance on our terms, which is going to be thanklessly challenging, we can build a prosperous future for Wales.