The programme sets out how we plan to ensure that rural communities are vibrant and able to offer people a good quality of life in terms of access to high quality employment, affordable housing and public services and sustained by a robust reliable and effective infrastructure in terms of broadband, public transport and utilities.
The profitability of the industry is, of course, one of the best ways to ensure the prosperity and sustainability of rural communities so my main aim is to create a thriving rural economy, from the farms themselves to the food producers and the rural businesses such as shops, cafes and pubs and suppliers of goods and services.
The CAP is vitally important to this programme, as it provides agricultural businesses in Wales over £350m every year, keeping businesses afloat and thousands of people in work. This money also benefits the wider community and economy, by filtering money through other rural businesses. I am therefore committed to ensuring the needs of Welsh agriculture and fisheries are fully considered and form an integral part of the UK negotiating position on future reform of CAP and the Common Fisheries Policy.
The food industry is also vitally important to this economic success so I will publish a delivery plan to support the existing Food Strategy: Food for Wales, Food from Wales. The delivery plan will include support for food producers to develop, promote and market Welsh products as well as strengthening the supply chain where necessary and helping businesses to pursue new markets.
Hybu Cig Cymru is already doing this very well on behalf of the red meat sector, so I intend to use the example it has set and apply a similar approach to the dairy, horticulture and fisheries sectors, strengthening the links between producers to create a sector-based approach to develop these industries.
The bureaucratic burden is another important issue affecting farmers so I am eager to reduce red tape and free up farmers’ time to run their farms and focus on making a profit. The ‘Working Smarter’ programme will look at ways in which we can implement the recommendations of DEFRA’s MacDonald Review that are relevant to Wales and identify how we can further reduce bureaucracy. Gareth Williams, chair of the Institute of Directors is carrying this important role out and will look at the industry from a business point of view, recognising the economic role food and farming has to play.
I was very pleased with the Business Minister’s announcement last week that Food and Farming will be a priority economic sector, which means that the industry will be able to access targeted economic support. This supports my view that food is an essential sector in the economy of Wales but it’s also a lot more than just that. It’s a fundamental part of this country’s identity and culture and it compliments other sectors of the economy such as the tourism, leisure and retail industries so helping the industry to grow and flourish and to get the best possible economic return is my main priority.