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Junior Agri-academy fact-finding tour of Brussels

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EU HQ: visited by Wales’ Junior Agri-Academy

EU HQ: visited by Wales’ Junior Agri-Academy

FOURTEEN members of Wales’ Junior Agri-academy have taken the opportunity to meet EU politicians, senior commission officials and NFU lobbyists, during a recent study trip to Brussels, thanks to NFU Cymru and its team at the British Agriculture Bureau (BAB) in Brussels. The youngsters, aged 16 to 18, all with a strong interest in developing a career in Welsh agriculture, did a three day tour of Brussels, to gain an insight of the political workings of Europe and the interaction and impact it has on Welsh agriculture, as well as promoting the need for European policy to recognise and help the next generation access a profitable and growing industry.

During a packed few days the Junior Agri-academy members had dinner and a presentation with Welsh MEP, Derek Vaughan, had a guided tour of the European Parliament and visited the Welsh Office. They also received a presentation from senior officials on the links between Welsh Government and the European Commission and how the interests of both Welsh agriculture and wider industry are represented in Europe.

The group also attended and observed the agriculture committee. The group also met with the General Secretary of the European Council of Young Farmers, where they discussed and shared their vision and belief in the future of agriculture and learnt first-hand how youngsters from across the EU are represented and influencing future policy. John Mercer, NFU Cymru Director, also attended the trip. He said: “It was a fantastic few days and a real pleasure to take such an enthusiastic and knowledgeable group of youngsters to the heart of European politics.

“The group saw at first-hand how influential NFU Cymru is within Europe and how important it is for us to have an office and staff representing the interests of Welsh farmers in Brussels, which is based at the heart of the EU institutions.” The group had the opportunity to hear from Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Phil Hogan, on two occasions. Firstly, the group sat as observers at the Commissions Agriculture Committee meeting and then they sat in on and observed COPA Presidium with NFU Cymru, whilst visiting COPA COGECA headquarters.

On the second occasion the academy had the opportunity to meet Commissioner Hogan, who stressed that he believed there was a bright future for youngsters across Europe. He later wrote in his blog:“It was inspirational to meet a group of dynamic young farmers from Wales, who were there at the invitation of NFU Cymru.” Junior Agri-academy member, Sioned Davies, said: “European politics plays a significant role in how we farm in Wales today and how we’ll farm in the future. It was a fantastic experience and meeting Commissioner Hogan face-to-face and hearing his views on the future was a real bonus.

We are very grateful to NFU Cymru for giving us the opportunity to see the workings of EU policy making and to Derek Vaughan for sponsoring and helping arrange the visit to the European Parliament.” The final day of the trip saw the group return to London where they met the NFU Parliamentary team in the NFU London office, to learn about their Westminster lobbying role and activities. The group then toured the Houses of Parliament before finishing with a question and answer session with Roger Williams, the MP for the constituency of Brecon and Radnorshire.

Swansea NFU Cymru Group Secretary, Kate Miles,who also travelled with the group representing Wales YFC said: “We are incredibly grateful to Roger Williams for staying on an extra day in London to meet with the Junior Agri-academy members and answer their questions. For the group to see behind the scenes of both the European and Westminster Parliaments within three days is an amazing opportunity and an experience I am sure they will never forget. “This trip, combined with their previous visit to the Welsh Assembly and Welsh Government in Cardiff, has given the group an excellent understanding of the main political factors that shape our industry and this will undoubtedly help them in whatever career they develop and hopefully inspire them to stay within agriculture.”

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Wales international Johnny Williams signs new Scarlets contract

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THE SCARLETS said this week that they are delighted to announce that Wales international centre Johnny Williams has signed a new contract with the club.

The 27-year-old joined the Scarlets from Newcastle Falcons in 2020 and after just four appearances earned his first Wales cap, against Georgia in Llanelli.

A powerful-carrying presence in the Scarlets midfield, he has since made 46 appearances, scoring six tries, including a memorable interception in last season’s Challenge Cup quarter-final win over Clermont Auvergne.

He has won seven caps for Wales, featuring at the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France.

Scarlets head coach Dwayne Peel said: “Johnny has been a key member of the side in recent years. He’s a player who is a dynamic carrier, is physical with and without the ball, has a good skill set and has an impact on every game he’s involved in.

“He is an important cog in how we look to play and it’s fantastic that he has agreed a new contract with the club. I know the fans will be thrilled with this news and, along with the likes of Eddie James, Joe Roberts and with Macs Page coming through, we have a lot of talent in that midfield pool for the coming years.”

Johnny Williams said: “I am delighted to have signed a new contract. It has been a frustrating season in terms of results, but I am excited by the potential of the squad we are putting together.

“A lot of young boys have put their hands up and we showed during the final few games of the season the kind of rugby we can produce.

“Pre-season will be around before we know it and I’m looking forward to getting stuck in, ready for a big start to next season.”

Johnny is the latest player to recommit to the Scarlets ahead of the 2024-25 campaign, following Tonga lock Sam Lousi, Wales internationals Tom Rogers and Harri O’Connor and back-rowers Dan Davis and Ben Williams.

Scarlets have also strengthened their squad with the addition of hooker Marnus van der Merwe (Toyota Cheetahs), prop Alec Hepburn (Exeter Chiefs), full-back Ellis Mee (Nottingham), lock Max Douglas (Toyota Canon Eagles), Wales international prop Henry Thomas (Castres Olympique) and back-three player Blair Murray (Canterbury).

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Tata workers call first strikes in 40 years to stop steel destruction

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HISTORIC strikes in Port Talbot as Labour vows emergency talks with Tata after general election

Around 1,500 Tata workers based in Port Talbot and Llanwern will begin all-out indefinite strike action over the company’s plans to cut 2,800 jobs and close its blast furnaces.

The strike action, which begins on 8 July, will severely impact Tata’s UK operations. It is the first time in over 40 years that steel workers in the UK have taken strike action.

The escalation in industrial action comes after the workers, who are members of Unite, the UK’s leading union, began working to rule and an overtime ban on Tuesday (June 17).

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Tata’s workers are not just fighting for their jobs – they are fighting for the future of their communities and the future of steel in Wales.

“Our members will not standby while this immensely wealthy conglomerate tries to throw Port Talbot and Llanwern on the scrapheap so it can boost its operations abroad. They know South Wales is ideally placed to take advantage of the coming boom in green steel – if the right choices are made.

“The strikes will go on until Tata halts its disastrous plans. Unite is backing Tata’s workers to the hilt in their historic battle to save the Welsh steel industry and give it the bright future it deserves.”

Labour has called for Tata to halt its plans and wait until after the general election to engage in talks with the government, saying there is a ‘better deal to do’. Labour has pledged £3 billion for UK steel if elected next month, a commitment secured by Unite. Labour has also made emergency talks with Tata a priority if it wins the election.

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Welsh Conservatives ask voters to send a message to Labour: ‘Enough is enough’

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THE WELSH CONSERVATIVES are rallying voters to use their voice on Thursday, July 4th, to signal that 25 years of Labour governance in Wales is enough. However, the question remains whether their message will resonate with the electorate amidst predictions of a near-wipeout for the Tories in Wales.

Since 1999, Labour has overseen critical areas such as the Welsh NHS, education, transport, housing, rural affairs, and job creation. According to the Conservatives, this quarter-century of Labour rule has left Wales with the longest NHS waiting lists in the UK, the poorest educational outcomes, and the lowest employment levels in the country.

Unveiling the Welsh Conservative manifesto in Kinmel Bay this morning, David TC Davies highlighted their achievements, stating, “We have a strong record of action in Wales, from cutting taxes and putting £700 back into the pockets of hardworking Welsh workers, to delivering two freeports which will create thousands of jobs and investing over £2.5 billion to support transport, tourism, heritage, and culture across Wales.

“This is just the start. Our bold plan for Wales will go further so that people in Wales keep more of their hard-earned money to spend on what they want, not what the government wants. We will continue to bring investment and jobs to Wales, so that people can provide for their families and enjoy the security of home ownership. We will make sure our children have the best start in life, with access to opportunities they never thought possible.

“Labour’s lack of ambition for Wales is clear for all to see – Labour in Westminster and Wales ruling out the electrification of the North Wales main line. Only the Conservatives will deliver for North Wales.

“It is only by voting Welsh Conservative can our clear plan, with bold action be put in place and deliver a secure future for Wales.”

Andrew RT Davies MS echoed these sentiments, calling for a change in leadership: “Keir Starmer said that Labour in Wales was his blueprint for what he would do to the rest of the UK. Here in Wales, we know that is a stark warning as we suffer with 20,000 people waiting two years or more for treatment, a 50/50 chance of an ambulance arriving in our hour of need and 20mph speed limits hitting the Welsh economy by up to £9 billion. That is what 25 years of Labour in power looks like.

“But it doesn’t have to be like this. We have a plan to save our Welsh NHS, a plan to kickstart our economy and a plan to get Wales moving. On the 4th of July, it is essential that people use their voice to tell Labour that enough is enough and that Wales deserves better.”

At the heart of the Welsh Conservative election manifesto, set to be published on Friday, is the pledge to reverse Wales’ controversial 20mph speed limit policy by giving people a legal right to challenge existing zones. The policy, introduced by former First Minister Mark Drakeford’s government, has faced significant backlash despite figures showing a reduction in road injuries.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, Welsh Secretary David TC Davies, and Tory Senedd leader Andrew RT Davies will present the manifesto in Kinmel Bay, Conwy. Mr Sunak will describe Wales as a “great country, but a country let down by Labour,” which has led the Welsh government since devolution 25 years ago.

Additional neighbourhood police officers and a £1bn investment plan to electrify the North Wales main rail line will also feature prominently in the document. The electrification project, initially announced by Mr Sunak in October 2023 after cancelling the second leg of the HS2 high-speed rail line, aims to revitalise transport infrastructure in North Wales. However, transport experts estimate the actual cost could exceed £1.5bn.

During the manifesto launch, Mr Sunak is expected to criticise Welsh Labour’s priorities, accusing them of focusing solely on maintaining power. He will highlight initiatives like lowering the voting age to 16 in Senedd and local elections and increasing the number of Senedd members as examples of Labour’s self-serving strategies.

Despite calling the election last month, Mr Sunak has not seen a significant reduction in Labour’s lead in opinion polls. David TC Davies, expressing scepticism about Labour’s predicted victory, suggested that any Labour majority would lack enthusiastic support from the electorate.

As the July 4th election approaches, the Welsh Conservatives are emphasising the need for a dramatic shift in governance, advocating for policies they believe will rejuvenate Wales and rectify the issues they attribute to 25 years of Labour control.

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