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Greater flexibility on Sustainable Farming Scheme needed – report



THE LARGEST ever cross-party Senedd investigation into the needs of the rural economy has published a landmark new report, setting out a robust and ambitious blueprint for the Welsh countryside.

The Senedd Cross Party Group (CPG) for Rural Growth’s report, Generating Growth in the Rural Economy: an inquiry into rural productivity in Wales, is making a series of low-cost recommendations across infrastructure and connectivity; housing and planning; tourism; and food and farming which, if implemented, could unleash the potential of Wales’ rural economy.

It follows the most comprehensive inquiry ever to be conducted by a cross party Senedd group into the needs of the rural economy. The CPG took evidence from major business groups, employers, unions and others to produce the report, with the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) acting as the secretariat. It will be officially launched at an event at the Senedd at noon today (5 March).

Productivity in Wales as a whole is 16% lower than the UK average, while workers in rural Wales are up to 35% less productive than in urban areas (output £18,000 per capita versus £28,000).

The report sets out a total of 19 low-cost, non-partisan and tangible recommendations which would help the Welsh government address this divide, and match the ambition of its rural communities.

Key asks and solutions developed by the group include:

  1. The re-establishment of a Rural Development Board (RDB) in conjunction with key stakeholders, to act as a focal point for facilitating rural growth, sensitive to sub-regional zones.
  2. The RDB to set out a definitive rural development strategy, setting objectives for infrastructure development, connectivity and rural skills and have the powers and resources to deliver it.
  3. A raft of measures to enable the planning consent system to become an enabler for responsible growth: reviewed local authority local development plans (LDPs), more planning officers to accelerate and improve the planning process, and the introduction of the positive approach of Planning in Principle to enable investment to be made and development to take place.
  4. Urgency in adopting the actions stemming from the Relieving pressures on SACs river catchments to support delivery of affordable housing programme led by the First Minister.
  5. Measures to revitalise the rural tourism industry: Visit Wales to become an arms-length body with resources comparable to equivalents in other parts of the UK, the body should include representatives from the sector. Impact assessments must be undertaken of recent fiscal initiatives and appropriate exemptions should be made to the 182-day threshold for business tax on tourist accommodation.
  6. A review of the terms – and clarity of the funding rates – within the proposed Sustainable Farming Scheme (SFS) to ensure it can continue to support this fundamental pillar of the rural economy is truly sustainable. The recommendation includes a demand for greater flexibility on the proposals to commit farms to 10% cover of trees and habitats.

Iain Hill-TrevorChair of CLA Cymru which represents thousands of farmers, landowners and rural businesses across Wales said: “For too long, the Welsh Government has treated rural Wales as a museum, to be preserved for the enjoyment of visitors.

“Instead, Ministers should view the countryside as a source of future growth and prosperity, creating jobs and opportunity while still preserving its inherent beauty. 

“Wales needs to generate economic growth and good, skilled new jobs.  Both can be delivered by delivering on the recommendations within this report.”

Samuel Kurtz MS, Chair of the CPG, said: “Rural Wales plays a key role in the future prosperity of our nation, but its potential will only be realised if policy makers and government understand its unique nature and needs.

“This cross-party report has taken evidence from a range of sectors throughout Wales, drawing on experiences of those living and working in rural Wales. The recommendations put forward are non-partisan but can act as a catalyst to simulate sustainable growth in our rural economy.

“I’m excited that this is the first report of its kind in the Senedd and I hope whomever is Wales’s new First Minister takes these recommendations seriously, to deliver for rural Wales.”

Margaret Bardsley has been running a small holiday lettings business near Welshpool, Mid Wales, since 2009. She said: “I welcome this report into rural productivity and growth in Wales.

“Furnished holiday accommodation providers have been hit with repeated body blows which have had a major impact both on demand and supply.

“To consider introducing a tourism levy and a licensing scheme right now is truly rubbing salt into the wounds, while the 182-night rule will increase the number of owners selling up, often way beyond the price range of those seeking affordable housing.

“My guests spend a lot of money in the local shops, pubs and restaurants, supporting jobs in the rural economy. If the Welsh government backed rural businesses and helped address the urban-rural productivity divide it would really make a difference.

“Rural businesses are dynamic and forward-thinking, and we’re ready to work with the government to help unleash the potential of the rural economy.”

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



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 (

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

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Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society elect new president



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



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 (  or by calling the show office: 01437 764331. The closing date for applications is noon on Monday, 1 July 2024.

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