CONTINUED access to a single market, an integrated rural training and education policy and the risks of reduced financial support for farmers are just some of the critical issues facing Welsh farm businesses.
These are some of the key findings set out in a new report which a group of more than 20 women supported through Farming Connect’s Agrisgôp management development programme, recently presented to Lesley Griffiths, Cabinet Secretary for the Environment and Rural Affairs at a meeting in Cardiff Bay.
A group women working in agriculture in Wales who were supported through Farming Connect’s Agrisgôp management development programme, recently presented their new report, ‘A view on Brexit’ to Lesley Griffiths, Cabinet Secretary for the Environment and Rural Affairs at a meeting in Cardiff Bay.
“As we prepare for a future outside the EU it is vital we hear the views from as many people as possible to ensure Wales’ future agriculture policies benefit everyone within the industry, not just a select few.
“Women are under-represented in senior positions within agriculture and their voice often goes unnoticed. We must do more to raise the profile of women by improving their skills, confidence and ensuring the relevant support systems are in place. This is how we can best achieve our shared vision of a prosperous, resilient agriculture industry promoting Wales’ present and future well-being,” the Cabinet Secretary said.
Working within three regional groups, these dynamic, focused women have over the past year collaborated to produce their report which will now contribute to the conversation which the Welsh Government is already having with other key stakeholders and which will directly influence the development of an Agricultural Policy for Wales post-Brexit.
With each group facilitated by trained Agrisgôp leaders, who work with like-minded individuals to develop ideas and business propositions through action learning, many of the women first got together at one of Farming Connect’s annual ‘women in agriculture’ forums last year, when the Cabinet Secretary invited delegates to set up their own regional forums and to provide their perspective on key issues facing the industry today.
Agrisgôp leader, trained coach and mediator and farmer Alice Lampard, who leads a group which has met regularly in South West Wales since the beginning of this year, emphasised the importance of empowering and encouraging women to ensure their voices and opinions are heard and valued at this important time.
“Women are recognised as having a hugely influential role in many farm businesses. Largely unsung heroes who are expected to manage farm and work commitments alongside family duties, there has never been a more important time for us to get together and speak out.
“Wales now has an opportunity to lead the way in policy development and thinking in terms of the new British Agricultural Policy and resulting Welsh policy which will sit alongside.
“This new report identifies the considerable challenges which inevitably lie ahead while also setting out recommendations on what the industry can do to capitalise on the opportunities which, we hope, are also within reach,” said Ms. Lampard.
The topics of discussion given most attention were summarised in seven specific headings namely trade; education; financial support; animal health and welfare, cross cutting themes including planning policy, broadband and rural support services; marketing and legislation.
Agrisgôp leader and financial expert Sally Herdman led the South East women’s group.
“The rural economy is particularly fragile with a high dependency on public sector jobs. A hard Brexit that leads to a suppressed rural economy, coupled with further austerity measures puts female workers in a vulnerable position.
“Closer working relationships and improved communications between the industry and Welsh Government will be the catalyst to ensuring that Wales is represented at the UK Government’s negotiating table, and I’m delighted that Agrisgôp has been able to support these groups and ensure that the female perspective is taken into account,” said Ms.Herdman.
Ceredigion AM Elin Jones said:
“I was pleased to meet with the women from across Wales to discuss the impact of Brexit on agriculture and rural Wales. As a Rural Affairs Minister for four years I found the vast majority of farming representatives were male, so to have so many women involved in a meeting like this was excellent and a breath of fresh air.
“The decision to leave the European Union won’t just affect men it will be all of us in rural Wales.”
Plaid Cymru’s Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Mid and West AM Simon Thomas added:
“We had a good discussion on the implications of the leaving the European Union and what it might mean for our food we put on the table, its impact on farmers, the environment and our rural areas. It was useful to have an input from voices traditionally not heard when it comes to agriculture. We talked about the importance of access to the European single market for our producers, the potential cost of food and whether Westminster will start to listen to Wales when it comes to agriculture and the environment. I look forward to working with the forum in the future.”