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Agricultural Subsidies

Volume 928: debated on Thursday 17 March 1977

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asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what representations he has had from farmers in and around Aberystwyth about recent Government policy on subsidy to agriculture.

My right hon. Friend has received no such representations from individual farmers in the Aberystwyth area.

Does the Minister agree that if we are to increase production from the land we shall have to spend more money on research and on modern agricultural techniques? What plans has he for research in Wales?

While we have received no individual representations, we have of course received representations from the farmers' unions. I think that the hon. Member is right to stress the importance of R and D. My Department's expenditure on it in this financial year is expected to total about £37 million, compared with £34·5 million in 1975–76. There is an experimental husbandry farm near Aberystwyth. Welsh farmers also benefit, of course, from work done elsewhere, particularly in other experimental husbandry farms.

Many farmers in Wales are concerned about the level of assistance for marginal land. If there is to be a greater output of food from our own resources, much of it can come from marginal land. Will the Minister give an assurance that there will be an improvement in the grant provisions for marginal land farmers?

I am aware of the substantial percentage of marginal land that exists in Wales. I think, however, that the hon. Member will be aware of the help available to farmers in marginal areas under the less-favoured areas legislation and other provisions, such as the Farm Capital Grant Scheme, and the Farm and Horticulture Development Scheme.

Does my hon. Friend agree that farmers in Wales, as in the rest of Britain, would be far better off if we abandoned the CAP and reverted to a farming policy of giving guaranteed prices for the farmers and cheap food for the consumers?

We may have a great deal of sympathy with the points made by my hon. Friend, and we may look back to the days of guaranteed prices and fat-stock schemes—arrangements that were ended by the Conservatives—but I believe that we must now accept that the greatest assurance for confidence that the industry can have is embodied in the steps being taken by my right hon. Friend the Minister.