Lesley Griffiths MS, Minister for Environment, Energy & Rural Affairs
Improving mental health and wellbeing continues to be a priority for the Welsh Government. I recognise the impact Covid-19 is having on rural communities, not helped by the cancellation of a number of rural events. These events are an important mainstay of the agricultural calendar, an opportunity for farmers to come together and socialise.
In spring 2019, my officials established a Wales Farm Support Group, bringing together rural charities with a direct link to agriculture in Wales. Originally established to consider the impact of Brexit, since the start of the pandemic the group has met monthly. I have attended several of their meetings when I was able to thank them for the work they do to support farmers. The work of the farming charities is more important than ever and it is vital everyone is able to access the help they need.
Reflecting on the importance of support during these challenging times and mental health, wellbeing and health and safety more generally, I understand the importance of agricultural shows in providing this support and commissioned an independent resilience review of agricultural shows across Wales.
The review, carried out by Aled Jones, made a series of recommendations to support the resilience and reinstatement of agricultural shows for the future.
I have made £25,000 available to the Agricultural Shows Innovation Fund administered by the Royal Welsh Agricultural Society (RWAS). The new fund will enable shows of all sizes to provide a better experience for all competitors as well as help preparations to reinstate shows. Guidance and details of the application process will be made available at the beginning of June.
The review included the need for Welsh Government to produce guidance for show organisers about the arrangements for staging events in 2021 in line with any public health restrictions. We are working with event industry partners to develop guidance for the return of outdoor events in Wales.
A bespoke training package for staff and volunteers is being developed in partnership with the Association of Shows and Agricultural Organisations (ASAO), the RWAS and Lantra Wales. It will help equip show societies and their hard working volunteers with the skills required to plan and organise shows when permissible. I have made funding available to enable 100 people to attend the course for free.
I announced support of £200,000 for RWAS for 2020-21 in November. I have subsequently awarded Pembrokeshire, Anglesey and Denbigh and Flintshire Agricultural Societies with direct funding to support their future resilience beyond the Covid-19 pandemic.
Finally, I am announcing an award of £69,000 to Menter a Busnes to support the work of the Wales Farm Safety Partnership. It was established to help drive down the unacceptable number of serious accidents and deaths that occur on farms across Wales each year. Delivered alongside the Farming Connect programme, the funding will be used to reinforce the current excellent work of the Partnership.