I CAN hardly believe that the Royal Welsh Winter Fair has been and gone again already.

It was yet another great event and we all enjoyed the many #FarmingMatters chats.

There is a lot to be said for events like the winter fair. Not only does it give us an opportunity to catch up with friends and colleagues, it is also a fantastic showcase for everything Welsh agriculture and food production has to offer.

The livestock on show were prime examples of the high animal health and welfare standards we have, groomed to absolute perfection, and if you ventured into the food hall you will have seen some of the finest food produced in Wales.

It really was an occasion to celebrate and it will no doubt have got many of us into the festive spirit.

Walking around the showground, all of us would have also been reminded why #FarmingMatters so much to rural Wales. The strength and value of our rural communities can’t be ignored and we will continue to highlight that those businesses which supply essential services, materials and machinery to farmers, through to the farmers themselves and their produce, to the processors who turn them into food, and the consumers themselves, have a critical part to play in our rural economy.

With this in mind, we will have heard Cabinet Secretary Lesley Griffiths announce that the vast majority of farmers will get paid on time when the first payment window opens on December 3 - and for those facing possible payment delays who have applied for BPS loans, payments worth around 70 per cent of the amount claimed should be issued during the week starting December 10.

Of course, we know that this could be one of the last years of those payments, should the Welsh Government proceed with its current proposals and phase direct payments out from 2020.

The current BPS makes up around 80% of many a farm business income and to a large extent that’s what keeps the wheels of our rural economy turning.

And whilst there are some who don’t agree with the direct payment, it is worth remembering that our family farms do so much more than just produce food and this payment pays for far more than just food production.

Family farms are the cornerstone of our rural economies and Welsh food production sustains tens of thousands of other businesses from upstream businesses such as feed merchants, agricultural contractors and engineers, to downstream businesses such as hauliers, processors and retailers.

Let us hope that by the New Year the Welsh Government will have taken account of the thousands responses from individuals and organisations to the Brexit and our Land consultation, all of which highlight concerns about the impacts of the Welsh Government’s plans on businesses such as those present at the winter fair this year.


FUW president