Saturday, 8 October 2016

Farmer 's Union of Wales Conference

The Farmer's Union of Wales (www.fuw.org.uk)(Twitter @FUW_UAC) held a one-day conference this week at the Royal Welsh Showground at Llanelwedd near Builth Wells in mid-Wales, the subject of which was Opportunities for Growth post-Brexit. The Farmer & I thought it would be interesting to attend, so having gained permission from the Sons to go and spend a night away, we made our way up to Builth very early on Thursday morning through the glorious autumnal hills of mid-Wales. The conference was well attended by farmers, representatives of associated agricultural businesses & very pleasingly, a group of students from Llysfasi agricultural college in north Wales (disappointing that other Welsh agricultural colleges had not sent a delegation of students). There were a number of familiar faces and old acquaintances.
The speakers for the day covered many different aspects of the current agricultural industry from the history & importance of agricultural shows, the remote monitoring of the landscape by satellite, drone and radar for 'data-driven agriculture' and environmental monitoring, the economic history of UK and EU pre- and post-Brexit and the challenges facing Welsh agriculture in the post-Brexit scenario amongst others. The general tone was one of positivity and optimism that Wales can make Brexit work and that Welsh agriculture has a real place in the brave new world of post-Brexit Britain, not that it will be easy but the challenges are there to be overcome.
Gleaned from the day's talks, some (very) random points...make of them what you will;
Average farm income £24,700, for hill farmers £14,700
90% of Welsh lamb exports go to EU
Norway imposes a tariff of 425% on imports
Satellites the size of a bread bin take images of Wales every day
Welsh lamb & beef are internationally recognised brands
The first Agricultural Society was formed in 1755 in Brecknockshire(Breconshire)
9% of the population of Wales works in agriculture
There are 20-23,000 migrant workers in agriculture in UK
The EU has the highest agricultural tariffs 90%,compared with USA 10%
5% of lamb & beef production in Wales is consumed in Wales, 60% in England
There are no free trade agreements with Europe,free trade agreements are mostly with former French colonies including Syria & Lebanon

After a long and stimulating day we headed off to find the B&B I had booked us into for the night, which was only 3 miles from the RWAS showground. However, in our rush to leave in the morning I had forgotten to bring the directions, contact details and map of how to find the farm we were supposed to be staying on!! We do not have a mobile phone or sat-nav & signal would probably been non-existent anyway. All I knew was the name of the farm and that it was somewhere off the A483. Now, mid-Wales is a large area of hills, very winding roads, farms which have very similar names and it is very easy to get lost, which we did. Eventually up a narrow lane after many twists and turns and re-tracing our steps, we found someone who was able to give us directions, so a couple of miles later and following a farmer on a quad bike for a mile as he moved his sheep up the narrowest of lanes and then following a hedge-trimmer for another 1/2 mile up a similar lane we found our destination, Trecoed Farm (www.trecoedfarminbuilthwells.co.uk) and received the warmest welcome from Elsie, the landlady who promptly made us a much-needed cup of tea accompanied by large slices of fruit cake. Wonderful! We had a very comfortable night and headed off the following morning after a substantial cooked breakfast. Even one night away is a holiday and I would certainly recommend Trecoed Farm B&B to anyone visiting the Builth wells area.

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