Leanne-WoodLeanne Wood, Leader, Plaid Cymru | Party of Wales, joins other party leaders in writing exclusively for the Countryside Alliance website: The countryside and rural communities contribute to the Welsh economy not only in terms of agriculture and food production but also crucially to the wellbeing of our environment and culture. Farming forms the backbone for many Welsh rural communities – creating economic and social activity in some of our country’s most isolated areas, yet the sector faces unprecedented challenges. Incomes dropped by 44% in over 2013/14 and a further drop is projected for 2014/15. Market volatility in the dairy and red meat sectors have contributed to these pressures. Plaid Cymru believes that in order to allow the industry to respond more effectively to these challenges the government reduce bureaucracy and red tape. The Party of Wales would start by scrapping the six day standstill rule. 

Plaid Cymru campaigned in Europe, Westminster and the National Assembly for Wales against cutting the CAP budget upon which many Welsh farmers depend. Our MPs have also been pushing for reform of the Red Meat Levy which currently leaves Wales short changed by £1 million. That is money that could be used to promote and open new markets for Welsh meat.

Our Assembly Members in Cardiff have been pushing for action from government to strengthen domestic supply chains to help protect Welsh farmers from the volatility of the international market. Our elected Members at all levels have also pushed for more public bodies to source goods and services from Welsh suppliers to support Welsh jobs and Welsh businesses.

Rural communities must do all possible to maintain their essential services. The Party of Wales will continue to work to protect community hubs like post offices, pubs and village shops. We will build support structures for those wishing to launch community takeovers for essential rural businesses.

Business must also be able to flourish no matter how rural or isolated the setting. That means increasing digital connectivity through better access to broadband and reducing operating costs through cutting business rates. Plaid Cymru is committed to bringing Superfast broadband to 100% of Wales and will roll out high speed mobile data signal too, bringing 4G to all parts of the country. We have also pledged to extend the business rate relief scheme to bring more than 70,000 businesses out of the business rates system.

Plaid Cymru is content to allow the bovine TB vaccination programme currently underway in Wales to run its course in order that we can learn some important lessons about the process and its effectiveness. We believe that the broadest range of interventions is necessary to eradicate bTB.

Plaid Cymru considers the promotion of food production as a vital sector of our society as a key part of economic thinking. We see the protection of rural communities a core priority and we will continue to champion their cause and build prosperity and resilience back into the rural economy.