LAST week saw the return of a much loved and anticipated event in the farming calendar, writes FUW president Glyn Roberts.

The Royal Welsh Winter Fair was back and what a success it was.

We thoroughly enjoyed catching up with members, friends and many politicians who came to see us over the two days.

We had plenty to celebrate as well, as we welcomed one of our Christmas card design competition winners, Rhian Morgan of Ysgol Llandinam, to the stand to present her with her well deserved prize.

It was also a great opportunity to catch-up with Kate Miles from the DPJ Foundation, our president’s charity.

A further reason to celebrate was when we were joined by Minister Lesley Griffiths MS at our stand to present well known dairy farmer Dai Miles with the FUW’s award for the person who has made an outstanding contribution to the Welsh dairy industry.

It couldn’t have gone to a more serving recipient.

But amongst the cups of tea and mince pies, we also had some important work to do on behalf of our members.

Speaking to politicians over the two days, including Wales Office Minister David TC Davies, Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price, Plaid Cymru spokesperson on rural affairs and agriculture Cefin Campbell MS and Conservative MS Sam Kurtz, we raised the most crucial issues the industry is facing at the moment.

Speaking to the Members of the Senedd, we discussed the co-operation agreement between Plaid Cymru and the Welsh Labour Party and concerns around the water pollution regulations, bovine TB and the future farming scheme.

Carbon trading and tree planting were also discussed.

Members can rest assured that the policy team and our elected officials were robust in their discussions, keeping the survival of our family farms here in Wales at the centre of conversation.

Our meeting with David TC Davies addressed issues affecting the Westminster government, including the trade deals and the powers, or better say lack of powers, MPs have to scrutinise trade deals before they are signed.

We were clear that what is currently being planned in terms of trade deals would not serve the industry here in Wales, nor the rest of the UK.

Members will also want to know that we have relaunched our call for payment capping at the winter fair.

We have always supported the capping of direct agricultural payments, after farm employee wages and other factors are taken into account, since 2007.

This is on the grounds that it maximises the amount of money going to typical Welsh family farms and rural communities.

Unfortunately, the Welsh Government has so far refused to commit to maintaining any form of payment cap or redistributive payment system as part of the future scheme. This raises concerns that future schemes will lead to money being taken away from hard working family farms and given to large landowners and charities - or even people based outside Wales.

If this is then coupled with a weakening of the current ‘active farmer’ eligibility criteria - a system that favours real farmers rather than absentee landowners - it would make matters worse, by taking away even more money from farming families and rural communities.

Can I therefore ask members to write to their Member of the Senedd to urge the Welsh Government to ensure a future payment scheme includes both capping and redistributive payment systems alongside rigorous active farmer criteria in order to protect and enhance the small and medium sized family farms that make up the vast majority of Welsh farm businesses.

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