THE AVERAGE dairy farmer in Carmarthenshire pays £60,000 more per year in costs than farmers who live close to milk-processing plants, a councillor has said.
Councillor Gareth Thomas said farmers living close to such facilities received 30p per litre of milk.
“We are lucky to get 25p,” he said.
Cllr Thomas was speaking at a meeting of full council on a wide-ranging report to support and revitalise Carmarthenshire’s rural community.
Carmarthenshire produces 28% of Wales’s milk but it is processed in Anglesey and England apart from one facility in Newcastle Emlyn.
Cllr Thomas – a farmer who served on the cross-party task group examining the rural economy – also said the average age of the county’s farmers was 61.
“It’s astounding really,” he said.
The task group’s report has 55 recommendations including a focus on 10 market towns, creating jobs in rural areas, building more houses according to local need, and ensuring everyone benefits from superfast broadband. It was passed unanimously.
Executive board member for communities and rural affairs, Cllr Cefin Campbell, said the council was looking into the potential creation of a milk-processing cooperative.
He said: “I think we need some Welsh Government steer and support for this.”
Cllr Campbell added that 60% of Carmarthenshire’s population lived in rural areas which he said had experienced a “pattern of decline” with young people leaving and shops, pubs, post offices and banks closing.
But he said the average house price in rural areas in the county was £280,000 to £290,000.
“That is completely out of reach of young people,” he said. “They are priced out of their communities and therefore leave to find affordable housing.”
Another task group member, Cllr Ken Howell, called for more planning policy flexibility at a national level.
“This is an exceptionally good report,” he said. “Now the hard work starts – the genuine hard work.”
Cllr Gareth John said he was surprised Carmarthenshire was the first authority in Wales to publish a comprehensive rural affairs strategy.
“The challenges are immense but the opportunities are even bigger,” he said.
Cllr Alun Lenny said colleagues should do their bit to ensure the county’s emerging local development plan met these aspirations and also respond to the Welsh Government’s draft national development framework.
An advisory panel will be set up to monitor the ongoing work and impact of the task group’s report.
Cllr Campbell said he didn’t want any tensions cropping up between rural and urban wards and said the council should press the UK Government to ensure Wales did not lose out financially after Brexit.
He said Wales received £670m per year via the EU.
“Westminster has promised to set up a UK Prosperity Fund,” he said. “Do we believe for a second they will give us £670 million a year? I don’t believe it.”