I went to a public meeting in Builth Wells last night. I am not sure what the point of the meeting was, (except that it was about the state of the sheep industry in Wales) - but I'd decided that it was important for me to be there. About 600 people turned up - mostly farmers from Mid Wales. What brought them out was a deepening concern about the future of their industry. It turned out to be a good opportunity for angry and depressed people to 'get it off their chests'.
I'm a sheep farmer myself and currently I'm selling fat lambs and breeding ewes in the depressed market. I'm also a politician (presently 'resting'), and if I hadn't lost my seat in the National Assembly election last May, I could well have been a speaker at last night's meeting. But I went to the meeting for another reason entirely. Well, two reasons actually.
Firstly I went to register my support for the industry in which I started my working life - to be seen if you like. As soon as the Chair invited questions I took the 'mike' at the first opportunity. There were so many people present that it was the only way I could make sure everybody knew I was there! Call it shameless if you must.
The second and main reason was that I wanted to speak in my capacity as President of the Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales. The overarching strategy I have as the CPRW President is to ensure that we become involved in the whole range of issues that have an impact on Rural Wales - and nothing is more important to Rural Wales than a thriving agriculture. I was keen that the farmers knew that they are not alone as they struggle for financial survival. I'm not sure many of them were much bothered by what the CPRW think - but it matters a lot to me that I was able to tell them that there are many people outside of farming who share their concern. Mind you, after four hours of listening to 600 people 'sounding off' in freezing temperatures, I was grateful when the Chairman called proceedings to a halt. I'm still not sure what we achieved last night - but I was glad that I went.