UK Government ministers will today (23 July) underline the increasing importance of supporting the rural economy in Wales by attending the first day of the Royal Welsh Show.
Secretary of State for Wales, Cheryl Gillan will be accompanied by her Cabinet colleague, the Secretary of State for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), Caroline Spelman at the showground in Llanelwedd, Powys.
As part of a busy schedule, they will visit a host of organisations to discuss issues facing the agriculture sector in Wales, and view the showcase of superb Welsh produce on offer.
The event will be officially opened by the European Commissioner responsible for agriculture and rural development, Dacian Ciolos.
The EU Commissioner highlighted the importance of agriculture to the European economy in his opening speech at the Common Agricultural Policy conference earlier this month.
Here, he stated that young farmers and job creation were top priorities for the CAP reform and stressed the importance for small and medium sized farms, and those in rural areas, to maintain employment in challenging times.
Mrs Gillan and Mrs Spelman will also meet with organisations including the Farmers Union Wales and National Farmers Union, who submitted responses to the Wales Office Rural Economy Taskforce last year.
The report found that access to reliable broadband and fuel prices were key concerns faced by farmers and rural businesses in Wales.
Since its publication in July last year, the UK Government has announced a £57million investment for Broadband provision in Wales, we well as plans to improve mobile telecommunications networks in mobile black spots, including the A470 between Llandudno and Cardiff. Measures taken on fuel duty means pump prices are around 10p lower than they would have been under plans put in place by the previous Government.
Speaking ahead of her visit to Llanelwedd, Mrs Gillan said:
“I have always made clear my unswerving support for our rural communities and the important role they play in supporting the economies of Wales and the UK as a whole.
“The Wales Office last year highlighted the concerns of rural and agricultural businesses in its Rural Economy Taskforce report. The investment that has been made by the UK Government in Wales since its publication - from broadband provision to mobile communication improvements - is a clear demonstration that we are listening and doing all we can to support families and businesses in very difficult economic times.
“Decisions to be taken by the European Union in the months ahead will have a direct impact on us all in Wales. The Government is clear that the Common Agricultural Policy in its current form is not working and that radical reform is required. We will continue to work with the Welsh Government to ensure Welsh farmers continue to be successful while making agriculture ultimately sustainable without subsidy in the longer term.”
Environment Secretary, Caroline Spelman, said:
“The rural economy is extremely important to Wales, and that’s why the Government is working hard to support communities and businesses so they can prosper and grow.
“We are breaking down trade barriers so farmers can export to new countries, and cutting red tape so they can get on with the business of farming rather than filling in paper work. We’re also negotiating in Europe for a fairer Common Agricultural Policy, as well as investing in connecting rural Wales to the broadband network.”