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Farming

Welsh Labour leadership candidates face farmer protests in Powys

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POWYS was the scene of a significant protest this weekend as nearly 100 tractors rolled into Newtown, echoing the concerns of the farming community against proposals set forth by the Welsh Government. The convoy, led by local farmers, bore banners proclaiming “no farmers, no food, no future,” a stark message against the sustainable farming scheme that threatens to reshape their livelihoods.

The protest coincided with the visit of Welsh Labour’s leadership candidates, Vaughan Gething and Jeremy Miles, who are in the running to succeed First Minister Mark Drakeford. Their attendance at a leadership debate in Newtown was overshadowed by the demonstration, which saw a substantial turnout from the agricultural sector, voicing opposition to plans that would compel farmers to allocate a significant portion of their land to non-farming activities.

Under the contentious scheme, farmers would be required to dedicate 20% of their land to environmental initiatives, splitting evenly between tree planting and re-wilding projects. This mandate has sparked fears within the farming community, already reeling from economic pressures and the aftermath of recent inflation surges, that their industry faces an existential threat.

The candidates did not engage with the protesters, opting to leave the venue via a side entrance, a move that has drawn criticism from both the demonstrators and Montgomeryshire MS, Russell George, who stood in solidarity with the farmers. Mr. George expressed disappointment at the candidates’ reluctance to address the crowd, highlighting the peaceful and cooperative nature of the protest, which garnered praise from law enforcement and support from beyond the farming community.

The Welsh Government has positioned the scheme as a critical component of its environmental strategy, aiming to combat climate change and biodiversity loss while ensuring food security. A spokesperson emphasised the collaborative effort in developing the Sustainable Farming Scheme and encouraged public feedback through the ongoing consultation process, concluding in early March.

As the debate intensifies, the Welsh Government assures that no final decisions will be made until the consultation period ends, urging stakeholders to contribute their perspectives. Meanwhile, the silence from Mr. Gething and Mr. Miles post-protest has only amplified calls for a more engaged dialogue on the future of Welsh agriculture.

Samuel Kurtz MS, Shadow Rural Affairs Minister, said: “The Welsh Government simply isn’t listening to farmers and rural communities and that is driving the frustration being felt.

“The start of the next First Minister’s tenure could be overshadowed by serious discontent in rural Wales, as neither candidate is willing to listen to the genuine concerns of the agricultural sector.

“That’s why I’m urging once again for the consultation to be paused. If it isn’t then it is only a matter of time before farmers are on the steps of the Senedd protesting, and I will be standing shoulder to shoulder with them.”

Also commenting, Russell George MS, who joined the farmers, said: “I was disappointed that the candidates did not come out to speak to the hundreds of farmers waiting.

“It was encouraging that the police praised those that attended for cooperating and making their points peacefully.

“This issue cuts deep across the country and support from those not directly involved in farming was clear to see.”

On Monday (Feb 19), the Minister for Rural Affairs Lesley Griffiths said: “I meet with the farming unions regularly and I wanted to have a meeting as soon as possible after our Sustainable Farming Scheme roadshows and theirs had been completed.

“I’d like to thank them for joining me today, it was good to hear the feedback they had from their events. We will consider this in addition to the feedback we’ve noted from our events.

“Many of the issues discussed were common with those we heard from the 3,200 farmers who’ve attended the Welsh Government events.

“I reiterated to them this is a genuine consultation. It is still open, and I would continue to urge people to take part and give us their views. We will consider every individual response.

“Once the consultation is over I will receive a detailed analysis of the responses, and as I’ve said before I would expect to make changes to the scheme as a result.

“It is vitally important people take part in the consultation. Please do find time to respond as your views matter.”

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Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society in search for county’s top progressive farmers

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IF you farm in Pembrokeshire and can demonstrate your farm’s use of the latest technological methods to promote progressive, sustainable agriculture then the Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society encourage you to enter the prestigious Baron de Rutzen Award.

Adam Thorne, Pembrokeshire County Show President, said, “We are looking for local Pembrokeshire farmers, under the age of 45, who can demonstrate their farm’s use of the latest technological methods to promote progressive, sustainable agriculture. They also need to show consideration for the environment and habitat sensitivity on their farm as well as present an aesthetically pleasing example of farming in the county. The competition welcomes all livestock and arable sectors to take part.”

Last year’s winners of the Award were Mark and Caroline Davies of Little Newcastle, Haverfordwest. They milk 230 pedigree Holsteins through a fully automated system. They rear their own replacements and also have a small beef enterprise. The farm is all grassland and they follow a strict reseeding and liming policy to optimise the yield from their multi-cut silage system. The couple place significant emphasis on animal health, husbandry and breeding to maximise the efficiency of their system. 

Baron John Fredrick De Rutzen was President of Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society in 1936 and the Baron de Rutzen Trophy was produced in his memory. The third Baron served in the Welsh Guards and tragically died, aged 36, in 1944.   

This year’s entrants must be fully practising farmers within the county of Pembrokeshire and were under the age of 45 years on 1 January 2024. Entries can either be by nomination or direct application online on the Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society website. Click here to apply:  Baron de Rutzen Award | Pembrokeshire County Show | Pembs Agricultural Society (pembsshow.org)

The closing date for nominations and applications is at noon on Wednesday, 29 May 2024.

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Farming

Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society elect new president

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ARABLE and beef farmer, Adam Thorne, has been unanimously elected to become the new President of Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society for the year ahead. Adam is the third generation of his family to hold the position.

During the Annual General Meeting of Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society, held last week on the Pembrokeshire Showground, Mr Tim John and his wife Margaret John were also voted in as Presidents elect.

Adam Thorne has had a long association with Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society. After visiting the show as a toddler, then helping show the family’s pedigree Herefords, his uncle got him into helping him with stewarding in his early teens. From there he progressed to being a Steward with his own section, Commercial Cattle, and then also the Butcher’s Lambs section.

From stewarding, Adam became involved with committee work, starting as an Executive and then on to the former Finance and General Purposes Committee. He has been Chairman of the Estates Committee for 12 years and is now a Board member and a Trustee.

Adam said, “I am proud of my long association with Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society. I am the third generation to now be President, following my late grandfather, Walter Thorne, my father, Robert Thorne and more recently my uncle, George Thorne. I am looking forward to my year in the prestigious position.”

Away from his work with the society, Adam runs the family’s arable and beef farm in Robeston West, Milford Haven. He has been heavily involved with Tiers Cross YFC from an early age, having been Club Secretary twice and Chairman. He has also sat on Pembrokeshire County YFC Committees and the Wales YFC Rural Affairs Committee. 

The 2024 Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society officeholders, announced at the AGM, include Miss Ffion Edwards who was awarded the role of Ambassador at last year’s show. Ffion, a nurse from Maenclochog, has enjoyed many years of attending the county show and believes that there are so many good elements to it. Ffion has been a member of Llysyfran YFC for 15 years and enjoys every aspect of young farmers – trying new experiences, competing and travelling to name a few. Mrs Nicola Owen was also elected as the Honorary Treasurer.   

Brian Jones, the outgoing Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society President, took the opportunity to thank everyone who had helped and supported him throughout his presidency. During his year as President, Brian and his wife Helen, raised a tremendous amount of money for various charities including the Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society, RABI, Tir Dewi and the DPJ Foundation. Brian also gave his assurances that Castell Howell will continue to sponsor the Food Hall for future years.

Pembrokeshire County Show, the largest county agricultural show in Wales, will be held over two days again this summer on 14 and 15 August. Everyone is invited to attend the celebration of rural life in the county.

Pictured (left to right): Ffion Edwards the Ambassador for 2024; Adam Thorne, President; Margaret and Tim John, the Presidents Elect.

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£1,000 bursary award available to Pembrokeshire agricultural students

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PEMBROKESHIRE Agricultural Society’s £1,000 Bursary Award is now open for applications from students studying agriculture, veterinary science, agricultural engineering, food technology, forestry or other subjects allied to agriculture.

The Student Bursary Award 2024 is available to students, from Pembrokeshire, who are currently studying or have been accepted to start their studies. They can apply for this financial support to assist with their chosen college or career path.

Last year’s winner of the award was Lottie Wilson from Hayscastle. Lottie was studying agriculture at the University of Nottingham when she applied for the bursary. When she is at home she is a general dairy farm worker as well as a lambing hand and a calving beef herd assistant. In 2021 she was the top agriculture student at Hartpury College.

Robert James, Chairman of the Society’s Bursary Committee said, “I would urge all Pembrokeshire students who study subjects that are clearly aligned to agriculture to apply for this bursary as it won’t only assist with your studies but will also give you great experiences such as undertaking an interview which is a key employment skill. It will also assist in your future career within the agriculture industry.”

“A panel of independent judges will draw up a short list of candidates who will be interviewed and the winning candidate will be asked to give a short presentation at a future meeting of the society’s show council.

“The standard of applications has always been exceptional which gives a lot of heart that there are a lot of very talented young people in our community. We are very much looking forward to receiving applications for this year’s bursary and hearing from the younger generation.”  

Qualifying students must not have won the student bursary on a previous occasion, the applicant must be studying or has been accepted to study agriculture or allied subjects at a UK college or university at A-Level or higher and the applicant’s family home must be in Pembrokeshire.

The bursary is tax free and will be awarded to the student who, in the opinion of the panel of judges, has submitted the best dissertation on how the bursary will assist them to complete their course of study.

Further details and the entry form can be found online: Student Bursary Award | Pembrokeshire County Show | Pembs Agricultural Society (pembsshow.org)  or by calling the show office: 01437 764331. The closing date for applications is noon on Monday, 1 July 2024.

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