Climate Change and Environmental issues are high up on many people’s list of concerns. There is no doubt that our weather is changing, with “one in a hundred year” events becoming an almost annual occurrence, and repeated flooding inflicting misery on those affected. Almost weekly, television programmes remind us of the impact of plastics on our oceans.
In Ceredigion, two of our important industries are founded on our environment; farming and tourism. If we want our community to thrive, we have to get this one right. We have to understand what is really going on at a scientific level. From there we can work out how best to look after our own environment whilst supporting jobs and businesses in Ceredigion. More importantly, we can lead the world in demonstrating good practice, whilst producing top quality food that Wales can be proud of.
A lot of the blame for global warming is put on the shoulders of agriculture, and around the world, some of this criticism is justified. Cutting down the rain forest to grow animal feed, to ship around the world to ultra-high intensity livestock farms doesn’t make a lot of sense, and undoubtedly contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. But to assume that model applies everywhere is just lazy thinking.
In Ceredigion and West Wales, growing grain isn’t easy. But what we are good at, blessed with our beautiful environment and temperate climate, is growing grass. This is nature’s feed for ruminant animals, on which our dairy and red meat industries depend. And there is increasing evidence-based on top-quality science (from world-class institutions like Aberystwyth University) that this represents a good news environmental story.
Managed well, grass-fed animals produce less methane. Grass-based livestock farming sequesters Carbon, by increasing organic matter in the soil (this is how fossil fuels were formed millions of years ago!). In turn that makes the soil healthier, and more productive. It is better at retaining nutrients and absorbing water. It is a virtuous circle, and here in Ceredigion, we can lead the world by showing just how positive good farming can be.
Many right-minded people are getting a bit fed up with ill-informed “celebrities” jetting around the world screaming hysterically about problems that most of us saw for ourselves, sometime back. We need instead to listen to serious scientists, who have dedicated their lives to understanding what is really going on and coming up with solutions. A great example of this is the development of better grasses at IBERS (Aberystwyth University), here in Ceredigion. We should be immensely proud that we are producing solutions, right here right now.
But let’s not pretend that there aren’t issues, or that we can’t get better. Polluting our environment can never be acceptable or justified, and is damaging to the reputations of two of our key industries. Take a look at our roadside litter (most of it deposited by local people). It’s just mindless, but take a moment to reflect on the negative impact it has on the perception of our environment, and the consequences for farming, tourism and the jobs they sustain.
The deliberate or negligent discharge of slurry into streams and rivers is likewise totally wrong. But for many years, Government/EU agricultural policy has driven parts of the farming industry to become more intensive, dairy being a particular example. This does create issues with nutrients leaching from the land and we need to improve this. But it will take time, with improvements in infrastructure, revising business models (perhaps with less price volatility) and carefully targeted Government help/reward. It takes many years to change a farm business. Draconian rules, brought in at short notice (the recent Nitrate Vulnerable Zone Regulations) are of no practical help. Indeed, they run the risk of putting many long-established family farms out of business. This is a sign of a Government that neither knows or cares about Welsh agriculture and rural communities.
Enhancing our environment is fundamental to the Welsh Conservatives and Amanda Jenner, the Welsh Conservative Senedd Candidate for Ceredigion is committed to this. It is the Welsh Conservatives who will work with our farmers to define long term goals, providing security for their businesses and use their skills and dedication to make Ceredigion a beacon of environmental excellence, creating good sustainable rural jobs and communities.