The rural agenda: Plaid Cymru

Plaid Cymru presents its ideas for the rural economy as part of a series of articles the CLA is running ahead of the general election on 4 July
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The CLA has offered all major political parties the opportunity to present their ideas for rural communities ahead of the general election. We offer this in a non-partisan manner. This article is part of a series of pieces that we are publishing in the run up to 4 July.

Llyr Gruffydd MS, Plaid Cymru Farming and Rural Affairs spokesperson:

Make no mistake, neither the Tories nor Labour are on the side of rural Wales. Years of Tory economic chaos have contributed to huge rises in farm input costs and Westminster’s post-Brexit trade deals have allowed cheap imports to undermine our domestic markets. The Tories have also broken their promise of “not a penny less” in farm funding to Wales, leaving Wales hundreds of millions of pounds worse off.

Labour aren’t offering any alternative vision either, in fact, their running of agriculture in Wales over recent years has left the industry feeling under siege and our rural communities fearing for their future.

Plaid Cymru’s priorities going into this election are to strengthen our rural economy and grow a more resilient and robust ecosystem of rural enterprises. All this is underpinned by policies primarily aimed at protecting the future of our family farms. They are the backbone of our rural economy, they shape our environment and sustain our communities and culture. We’re proud of the way MPs and MSs have fought for the sector in Wales, but there’s so much work to do.

Plaid Cymru MPs will work to secure the future of farming in Wales, and we’ve got some specific asks that we will be demanding of the next UK Government, and by working with colleagues in the Senedd, of the Welsh Government.

Fair funding for agriculture and the Sustainable Farming Scheme

The sector is rightly demanding a guaranteed budget of £500m per annum to reverse the cuts imposed by the Tories to our farming budget in Wales. While other parties have been demanding the Tories deliver on their broken promise of “not a penny less”, Plaid Cymru, as far back as last summer, was arguing that expecting the sector to deliver today’s priorities on yesterday’s budget is not enough. That’s why our MPs will always make the case for fair funding for Wales. We have opposed Labour’s Sustainable Farming Scheme proposals, particularly the arbitrary requirement of 10% tree cover on all farms. We have also called for a reduction in the long list of universal actions required to enter the scheme, as well as move away from the ‘costs incurred/income foregone’ funding model which doesn’t provide sufficient incentive to join the scheme.

Reversing the damage of post-Brexit deals and free trade agreements

Europe is the largest market for Welsh agri goods. The Tory Brexit deal has added red tape and cost to our exporters, and their new trade agreements have undermined our domestic producers. Our food and drink sector has been particularly hit by burdensome border requirements while poorer quality imports threaten to undercut Welsh businesses and damage a sector worth more than £800m to the Welsh economy. Plaid Cymru is demanding these barriers be removed by becoming part of the single market and customs union. We also want Wales to have a veto over future trade deals if they threaten to undermine Welsh business.

Nitrate Vulnerable Zones (NVZs) and farm infrastructure

Plaid Cymru has led the opposition to the Welsh Government’s impractical one-size-fits-all policy on NVZs. The whole farming by-calendar approach isn’t fit for purpose and the industry must be supported to embrace new technology rather than be forced to implement regulations that undermine their businesses without achieving the outcomes we all want to see.

Labour issues, visas and the shortage of skilled workers

The UK Government must address labour shortages by including roles essential to primary production on the Shortage Occupation List. Plaid Cymru has pledged to demand amendments to this list to ensure our farmers and food producers have access to the skilled and unskilled workforce required to sustain the industry. This includes dairy workers and those in the food processing sector, such as veterinary inspectors, many of whom come from the EU.

Disease control

Animal health is a priority for Plaid Cymru, and while tackling bovine TB (bTB) is top of our list, we must also remain vigilant of other disease risks such as Bluetongue and Schmallenberg. With this in mind, we will support strengthening the UK’s disease surveillance networks, including protecting the UK’s scanning surveillance budget. Plaid Cymru is also committed to tackling bTB in wildlife as part of a wider strategy to get to grips with this devastating disease once and for all.

Reducing the cost of living in rural areas

We have called for a reconfiguration of the Rural Fuel Duty Relief Scheme, which considers the sometimes poor rural public transport networks. We’d also work to make sure that support is increased to 10p per litre.

Plaid Cymru has a proud history of working with the farming community, for rural Wales. We will continue to champion the rural economy, working closely with organisations, such as the CLA to sustain the rural communities that we all hold so dear. That’s why a vote for Plaid Cymru matters on 4 July.

Find out about the CLA Rural Powerhouse campaign

Six 'missions' designed to help the political parties understand what policies will be necessary to boost the rural economy