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It's Showtime For Agriculture and Rural Life Experts

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For those of us with a special interest in rural matters the summer months aren’t about jetting off to foreign climes, they are about agricultural shows. Members of our Rural Practice Team will be on hand at the Royal Welsh Show this month, and at many other agricultural shows throughout South and West Wales, so please come over and say hello. We will be on hand to help with any legal questions, or just to share a drink and a chat.

The atmosphere at these shows is always celebratory and vibrant, but it is certainly the case that farming and rural communities have much on their minds at the moment, in light of the uncertainly – or perhaps, for some, the expectation – surrounding Britain’s exit from the European Union. Whatever your political stance, it is clearly the case that those in the farming community are dealing with the problem of not being able to plan effectively for their future at the moment.

The biggest topic of conversation at this year’s shows will be, undoubtedly the fact that we simply do not know what level of financial support the industry is going to receive once we come out of the EU. The current very fevered political atmosphere isn’t helping to allay fears that farming industries may come some way down the pecking order for the allocation of funds behind health, social care, education and other sectors which have particularly strident voices within the media.

While the farming and rural communities have perhaps always been too busy getting on with the ‘proper work’ of running their business and managing the countryside to pay rapt attention to political to-ings and fro-ings, no doubt all will keep a weather eye on the Brexit negotiations for clues as to which way the wind is blowing.

One theme which has come up again and again in the run-up to the Brexit negotiations has been the call from all farming unions and farmers’ representatives for some sensible transitional arrangements and agreements – tariff and barrier free - to enable things to operate smoothly while we extricate ourselves from some of the EU’s regulations and processes.

Of course, the biggest issue regarding this is the need for a well-funded agricultural policy with the in-built flexibility needed across the devolved nations, moving from the CAP subsidies to their replacements. Some experts have already urged farmers to examine their accounts and look at the shape of their business minus the current subsidies, scrutinising areas where operations could be tightened in preparation for lower funding.

There have been calls from union chiefs for full and unfettered access to the single market – effectively a bespoke deal with the EU on this. A hot topic too is the importance of the continued adherence to current welfare standards, particularly on meat imports to Britain.

Access to migrant labour was always going to become a hot potato, with the Government facing the tricky issue of balancing the public’s expectation of tighter controls on immigration with the expressed reliance of agricultural sectors on migrant labour.

One area of opportunity that is being discussed by many is the chance, upon extrication from the EU, to hack away at some of the red tape that so many rail against, and to install instead a system that is responsible, but more streamlined and more agile.

Every generation of farmers has seen its own interesting – and testing – times. The current era is, in this way, no different. So it is pleasing to be able to enjoy the constants and the calendar milestones that remain unchanged throughout the decades – notably, showtime.

The Rural Practice team is the National Farmers Union (NFU) Cymru legal panel for South Wales, a position they will hold until 2018.

Welsh is spoken in the Rural Practice Team