I won’t dwell too much on the weather as the Arctic temperatures playing havoc on farms across Wales but instead, as the year draws to a close, I thought on my last column in 2010 I would reflect on the issues dominating the industry.

Looking back over the last 12 months the key issues that jump out at me include the bTB eradication plan in Wales which is now back on track having suffered a setback in the summer with a Court of Appeal ruling.

Let’s hope that progress can now be made on a disease that continues to spread, continues to be a constant battle for cattle farmers, and continues to drain public finances.

Isn’t it ironic that bTB was endemic 70 years ago and was eliminated only to come back and haunt us in the 21st century!

The application period for the agri-environment scheme Glastir closed last month and there is real disappointment amongst farmers that the bar has been set too high for many businesses to enter.

With only 2,994 completed applications, that’s roughly 16 per cent of Welsh farmers. This will result in valuable financial assistance previously directed towards the countryside areas of Clwyd being inaccessible.

Needless to say this will affect farm profitability and further decimate the rural economy - an opportunity foregone I fear.

The review on the future of the CAP is under way and will be finalised before the end of next year.

The early indications are that this scheme will become area-based moving away from the current historic bases, over hopefully a long transitional period, and will have a strong environmental obligations.

This will mean that we have lost our last link with production which I believe sends the wrong message to farmers at a time when the world population is growing and the demand for food is set to increase.

And the milk industry continues to struggle. Over the last 20 years liquid milk processors have sourced their supplies close to their depots and this has left 80 per cent of producers in Wales producing for the cheese sector.

Prices for these contracts are up to 8ppl below that for designated milk contracts.
Liquid milk prices are also under pressure as retailers compete aggressively with each other in the current economic climate.

It is important that we raise the profile of the problem that is a real threat to the future of the family farms in Wales and let’s hope we can find a plan of action to put things right.

For now folks, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all.