FOURTEEN members of Wales’ Junior Agri-academy have taken the opportunity to meet EU politicians, senior commission officials and NFU lobbyists, during a recent study trip to Brussels, thanks to NFU Cymru and its team at the British Agriculture Bureau (BAB) in Brussels. The youngsters, aged 16 to 18, all with a strong interest in developing a career in Welsh agriculture, did a three day tour of Brussels, to gain an insight of the political workings of Europe and the interaction and impact it has on Welsh agriculture, as well as promoting the need for European policy to recognise and help the next generation access a profitable and growing industry.
During a packed few days the Junior Agri-academy members had dinner and a presentation with Welsh MEP, Derek Vaughan, had a guided tour of the European Parliament and visited the Welsh Office. They also received a presentation from senior officials on the links between Welsh Government and the European Commission and how the interests of both Welsh agriculture and wider industry are represented in Europe.
The group also attended and observed the agriculture committee. The group also met with the General Secretary of the European Council of Young Farmers, where they discussed and shared their vision and belief in the future of agriculture and learnt first-hand how youngsters from across the EU are represented and influencing future policy. John Mercer, NFU Cymru Director, also attended the trip. He said: “It was a fantastic few days and a real pleasure to take such an enthusiastic and knowledgeable group of youngsters to the heart of European politics.
“The group saw at first-hand how influential NFU Cymru is within Europe and how important it is for us to have an office and staff representing the interests of Welsh farmers in Brussels, which is based at the heart of the EU institutions.” The group had the opportunity to hear from Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Phil Hogan, on two occasions. Firstly, the group sat as observers at the Commissions Agriculture Committee meeting and then they sat in on and observed COPA Presidium with NFU Cymru, whilst visiting COPA COGECA headquarters.
On the second occasion the academy had the opportunity to meet Commissioner Hogan, who stressed that he believed there was a bright future for youngsters across Europe. He later wrote in his blog:“It was inspirational to meet a group of dynamic young farmers from Wales, who were there at the invitation of NFU Cymru.” Junior Agri-academy member, Sioned Davies, said: “European politics plays a significant role in how we farm in Wales today and how we’ll farm in the future. It was a fantastic experience and meeting Commissioner Hogan face-to-face and hearing his views on the future was a real bonus.
We are very grateful to NFU Cymru for giving us the opportunity to see the workings of EU policy making and to Derek Vaughan for sponsoring and helping arrange the visit to the European Parliament.” The final day of the trip saw the group return to London where they met the NFU Parliamentary team in the NFU London office, to learn about their Westminster lobbying role and activities. The group then toured the Houses of Parliament before finishing with a question and answer session with Roger Williams, the MP for the constituency of Brecon and Radnorshire.
Swansea NFU Cymru Group Secretary, Kate Miles,who also travelled with the group representing Wales YFC said: “We are incredibly grateful to Roger Williams for staying on an extra day in London to meet with the Junior Agri-academy members and answer their questions. For the group to see behind the scenes of both the European and Westminster Parliaments within three days is an amazing opportunity and an experience I am sure they will never forget. “This trip, combined with their previous visit to the Welsh Assembly and Welsh Government in Cardiff, has given the group an excellent understanding of the main political factors that shape our industry and this will undoubtedly help them in whatever career they develop and hopefully inspire them to stay within agriculture.”