Alison Alexander Gives Speech on Sustainable Agriculture

Alison Alexander, our Senedd Candidate for Montgomeryshire has given a speech titled 'Go Green not Broke' to the Welsh Liberal Democrat Conference highlighting plans for a rural recovery that will benefit everyone. The motion that insists agriculture must go green without farmers going broke in the process.

The Party have also released an 8 point plan on how to work with rural communities to tackle water pollution, available here:

And a transcript is available below.

Go Green not Go Broke Conference Speech - Alison Alexander  

"Conference, today I’d like to propose to you a motion that provides a vision for rural recovery that will benefit every one of us whether we live in a remote stone cottage or a city flat. This is a motion that insists agriculture must go green without farmers going broke in the process.

Why do we need land managers to go green?

"We are in a biodiversity crisis. 97% of our flower-rich meadows have been lost since the 1930s. Put simply, that’s food and shelter for trillions of insects gone. And we are one of the least wooded countries in Europe with only 15% woodland cover. We’ve lost 73 out of 3900 species monitored since the 1970s, and another 660 are threatened with extinction. Butterflies, bees, birds, mammals, they are all in trouble.

We are in a climate emergency and must cut emissions across all industries. 88% of land in Wales is agricultural land. Farming accounts for 14% of carbon emissions. We have some of the highest animal welfare, food quality and environmental protections in the world. But we must do better still.

As for going broke, what about the old joke that you never see a farmer on a bicycle?

For many, farming isn’t paying. Just under 60,000 people are employed in agriculture in Wales. Average income for unpaid staff on farms – invariably at least two adults – is under £30,000 a year, for long hours of work. The debt burden many are carrying is a heavy load indeed. The strain on mental health of this financial pressure and of the uncertainty surrounding both Brexit and subsidy scheme change has been widely publicised.

Over the years farmers have adapted their practices to changes in policy frameworks put in place by successive Governments and, unfortunately, those frameworks have had unintended consequences for the environment. These people are being asked to change their practices yet again, and rightly so. We contend they must have our support to make the transition to sustainable farming.

Solving these problems is important for all of us, regardless of where we live in Wales. The political and financial framework our society creates for this industry governs not only how land is managed but also the price and the quality of food available to our people. In our country there are about 160,000 children living in households where a healthy diet is simply unaffordable. Only around 30% of people across the nation eat the recommended 5-a-day of fruit and vegetables.

We must create a system that works for all of us.

In Go Green not Go Broke, we believe we have the answers to these problems. The motion has three key messages:

•The Basic Payments Scheme (BPS) should be replaced by a system based on public money for public goods, that is, for biodiversity gain, to meet our climate change obligations and for improvements in water quality and pollution. Quality food production should also be considered a public good.

•No farmer should be left without financial support during the transition from the Basic Payments Scheme to the Sustainable Farming Scheme.

•Imported goods should meet the high environmental, food quality and animal welfare standards expected of home-produced food. We must keep our produce competitive and protect habitats elsewhere in the world.

In conclusion 

We say we must all work together. We can have thriving rural communities where young people can afford to live. We can restore habitats for a healthy environment for us all, for clean rivers, for flood prevention, for wildlife. And we can have sustainable farming that provides a decent living for people working hard to put high quality, affordable food on all our tables.

Friends, I urge you to support this motion for a rural recovery. Finally, on behalf of Montgomeryshire, Ceredigion and Brecon and Radnorshire, I would like to thank the team of expert local ecologists, horticulturists and farmers, supported by our Rural Affairs and Agricultural Spokespersons, who came together to bring you this policy. With especial thanks to members Simon Cope and Dr Simon Spencer. Diolch yn fawr.

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