Value of Welsh agriculture underlined after comments from Mark Drakeford

NFU Cymru has highlighted the value of the Welsh agricultural industry following controversial comments from the First Minister of Wales.

Mark Drakeford said farmers must “do things that taxpayers are willing to invest in” to receive subsidies in the future.

Under the Welsh Government’s recently announced agricultural policy, growers must cover at least 10% of their land with trees

Mr Drakeford told the BBC“If you want to benefit from this money, if you want to have the help of the Welsh taxpayer, then you will have to find a way to fit into the scheme that allows me, as Prime Minister, to justify to the Bangladeshi drivers of taxi in Riverside, where I live, why they should pay their taxes in order to support farmers in Wales.”

But NFU Cymru said Welsh agriculture was already delivering “multiple benefits”, such as feeding the nation during the Covid-19 pandemic and the current impact of rising inflation.

Public funds provided to Welsh agriculture should be viewed as an investment, the union said, adding that for less than 2% of the Welsh Government’s overall budget, support for agriculture enables farmers to provide a range of services .

For example, Welsh farmers manage 80% of the land in Wales, including landscapes that attract millions of tourists each year, explained NFU Cymru.

And the sector underpins the £8billion Welsh food and drink industry, which is Wales’ largest employer with more than 230,000 people linked to roles in the sector.

NFU Cymru Chairman Aled Jones said: “It is extremely important that the public and governments recognize the multiple benefits that Welsh agriculture offers.

“For generations, farmers in Wales have carried out work on the farm which has enormous benefits, not least for the environment of Wales.

“Farmers in Wales are undertaking an enormous amount of work to maintain and enhance our iconic Welsh landscapes, encourage wildlife and reduce our climate impacts.”

And union vice-chairman Abi Reader said Welsh farmers were protecting the environment, boosting biodiversity and providing habitats for nature.

“Let us never forget that farmers are the foundation of the rural economy as they redistribute their income within their local community and that we are the champions of Welsh language, culture and heritage.

“Every £1 of public money invested in agriculture brings over £7 back to the Welsh economy,” she explained.

Welsh Shadow Rural Affairs Minister Samuel Kurtz slammed Mr Drakeford’s comments as showing “a level of contempt for our farming industry”.

“Not only is agriculture a mainstay of the Welsh economy, it is the lifeblood of communities across the country, playing a central role in our culture and preserving the Welsh language,” he said.

About Keneth T. Graves

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