The Farmers’ Union of Wales has, for a second time, written to the Welsh Government urging them to instigate actions within their control to alleviate some of the pressures of the Ukraine war on Welsh farmers and consumers.
In response to the initial letter sent to the Welsh Government on 4th March 2022, in which the Union requested a roundtable meeting with them and other stakeholders to discuss such issues and possible actions, the Minister for Rural Affairs and North Wales, and Trefnydd stated that the Welsh Government did not believe such a meeting was appropriate.
In his letter of reply, FUW President Glyn Roberts said: “We are acutely concerned at the failure of both the Welsh and UK Governments to engage with the supply chain early on in order to explore immediate actions that will help mitigate problems that are having an impact now, and will continue to do so for the remainder of the year and at least into 2023.
“Such impacts are affecting and will continue to affect not only farmers, but also consumers, and this is therefore an issue not only for the food and farming industry but also for the Welsh and UK population as a whole.”
Mr Roberts also highlighted the need for the UK Agriculture Market Monitoring Group on which the Welsh Government sits to take a more proactive approach and share information in a more timely manner, stating:
“It is worth noting that the last set of minutes published on the UK Government website relates to a meeting held on 8th February 2022, many weeks before Russia’s attack on Ukraine.”
“I know you will be aware of the impacts being reported across the supply chain, whether in terms of cooking oil, fuel, feed or fertiliser, and predicted shortages, for example of eggs, and we fully appreciate that with regard to many of these there is little if anything that the Welsh Government can do,” wrote Mr Roberts.
“However, there certainly are actions that can be instigated by the Welsh Government to alleviate some pressures for Welsh farmers which will benefit consumers over the coming months and years, and while these may be limited we believe it is incumbent upon the Welsh Government to act now in order to do what it can to assist farmers, food producers and consumers,” he added.
(Lead image: FUW)
Regional plan to unlock £138m funding pot
Aimed at securing funding worth nearly £138m to South West Wales over the next three years, a new regional investment plan is being produced.
The plan now being put together by the region’s four local authorities will unlock money already earmarked for Carmarthenshire, Neath Port Talbot, Pembrokeshire and Swansea as part of the UK Government’s Shared Prosperity Fund.
In line with UK Government guidance, the plan is being developed through local strategic partnerships made up of public, private and voluntary sector organisations in each county.
To help further shape the plan, all four local authorities will be seeking feedback from local people and local businesses to find out which key themes are most important to their areas.
Based on the feedback, a final plan will then be submitted to the UK Government by August 1 for approval in the autumn.
Local authorities have not yet received any Shared Prosperity Fund money. Detailed guidance from the UK Government on how the funding will be distributed to projects is also yet to be confirmed, although the preference is for a competitive process.
Once the funding has been secured, each regional local authority will let its businesses and other organisations know how they can bid for funding.
Cllr Robert Francis-Davies, Swansea Council’s Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Investment and Tourism, said: “This funding from the UK Government has already been set aside for each local authority area, although a regional investment plan is needed to unlock it.
“The plan is now being prepared, although it will soon be further informed by the key themes identified by local people as priorities in their respective local authority areas throughout South West Wales.
“Businesses and residents across the region will be kept updated on consultation opportunities. We’ll also let people know once the regional plan has been approved and businesses and other organisations can start bidding for funds.”
Cllr Gareth John, Carmarthenshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Leisure, Culture and Tourism, said: “Carmarthenshire looks forward to this exciting funding opportunity and to work locally with our communities and our businesses in order to grow the economy. Maximising sustainable growth and jobs for our county is one of our key priorities.”
Cllr Martyn Peters, Neath Port Talbot Council’s Cabinet Member for Economic and Community Regeneration, said: “We have been working closely with our regional and local partners to ensure the funds that have been allocated to Neath Port Talbot make an impact for local people and businesses. We are strengthening our local partnership arrangements further so we can get the programme up and running as soon as the funds are unlocked.”
The Shared Prosperity Fund is part of the UK Government’s levelling-up agenda.
Great Western Railway get contract renewal to continue running services til 2025
The Department for Transport (DfT) has awarded a National Rail Contract (NRC) to Great Western Railway (GWR) to continue operating the Great Western network.
The new contract will run until at least 21 June 2025, with the potential for a further three years at the Secretary of State’s discretion.
In line with the contract, GWR is committed to attracting people back to the railway by continuing to deliver improvements in customer experience, while focusing investment on sustainable services, and providing better value for money for customers and the taxpayer.
Since taking over the Great Western franchise in 2015, GWR has seen satisfaction levels among customers climb from 81% to 91%, helped considerably by the introduction of its high-speed Intercity Express Trains and the biggest timetable change in a generation in December 2019.
GWR Managing Director Mark Hopwood said: “We are delighted to have been awarded a National Rail Contract by the Department for Transport, which is a sign of its confidence in GWR as a trusted operator, and means we can continue to build on welcoming more people back to the railway.
“We look forward to working with our rail partners to develop services designed to meet changing customer needs, and putting passengers at the heart of an updated, modern railway.”
Rail Minister Wendy Morton said: “We’re delighted to continue our partnership with Great Western Railway, and excited by its plans to deliver more benefits for local communities.
“During the pandemic, GWR was instrumental in keeping critical services moving and this new contract will see it continue to deliver our ambitious Plan for Rail and provide a fantastic service for passengers.”
(Lead image: GWR)
Urgent action required to tackle UK energy shortages and secure future energy production says farming union
Urgent action is required now more than ever to tackle the UK’s energy shortages and to secure future energy production, the Farmers’ Union of Wales has agreed during a recent meeting of its Presidential Policy Team.
In his letter to the UK Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, The Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng MP, and Welsh Minister for Climate Change, Julie James MP, FUW President Glyn Roberts said: “During the previous decade, initiatives such as Feed In Tariffs were instrumental in increasing levels of renewable energy production in Wales and the UK at the fastest rate seen to date, with renewable energy produced on farms being central to this improvement in our nations’ energy security.
“The risks of reliance on overseas energy are now more apparent than ever, and given this, FUW PPT members believe that urgent action is needed on both a UK and national scale in order to rapidly increase renewable energy production on farms, in a way that does not compromise food production.
“While responsibility for different elements of policy relating to energy production lie with the UK and Welsh Governments, PPT members believe that urgent action is needed at all levels of government to mitigate current and future impacts of our over-reliance on imported energy – whether, for example, in terms of the restrictions placed on those farming in our National Parks where sources of renewable energy abound but renewable energy initiatives are obstructed, or in terms of UK-wide policies that genuinely incentivise and reward those who are contributing to reductions in carbon emissions through renewable energy production.”
Given such concerns, the FUW believes that as a matter of urgency, barriers should be removed and initiatives enhanced in order to increase levels of renewable energy production on farms.
“PPT members also highlighted that one of the barriers to such renewable energy production was the cost of connection of viable schemes to the National Grid, and the fact that such connection fees often appeared to at the best capitalise on, and at worst obstruct, such initiatives despite them being in our nations’ interests.” he said.
In light of the above, Mr Roberts urged the UK and Welsh Governments to do all they can, and to work with colleagues in other administrations, to ensure that all actions possible are taken to further increase renewable energy production in Wales and the UK without compromising agricultural production.
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