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Tributes to RABI at FUW dinner


Leading Welsh Assembly politicians paid tribute to the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution (RABI) for its dedicated work – especially during the devastating foot and mouth disease outbreaks of 2001 and 2007 – at a Farmers’ Union of Wales dinner to celebrate the institution’s 150th anniversary.

First Minister Carwyn Jones, who was Rural Affairs Minister for two years from July 2000, told 160 diners at Parc y Scarlets, Llanelli, he remembers the fear of the Welsh farming industry when the 2001 outbreak first hit. “It was the fear of not knowing what would happen next and that fear was very real.

“One of the things that I remember is the work of RABI at that time. An occasion like this shows the dedicated work that RABI has provided for so many years to the farming industry and I hope that work will continue for many, many years.

“Farming is never easy and when I was Rural Affairs Minister I got to learn that farming is such an important way of life. I think we have come a long way since then and farming is in better shape now than 10 years ago.

“There is now far more of a connection between people and farming and what people want to buy. If we put our mind to it we can go out there and sell Welsh Lamb, Welsh Beef and our other products because they are the best in the world and now we realise that people want the best.”

Current Rural Affairs Minister Elin Jones said she first came to know about all the good work of RABI from the fund-raising activities in her Ceredigion constituency. “I then came across RABI again in discussions regarding the foot and mouth outbreak in August 2007.

“That outbreak wasn’t as dramatic or traumatic as 2001 but it still shut off the trade and export in lamb in the autumn of that year and it had such a dramatic effect on farmers. I was struck by the work that RABI did in supporting farmers in that difficult time in such a quiet way.

“It’s very fashionable at the moment to say that the ‘Big Society’ is so important but the ‘Big Society’ in Wales has been happening for a very long time and RABI has been at the forefront of that work. I want to thank them for the way they have been supporting Welsh life and society for the past 150 years.”

RABI chief executive Julian Sayers said: “We have been hearing about how we supported farmers during the foot and mouth outbreaks and I hope it will never happen again but should it do so RABI will be there to help again.

“Nowadays, thank God, farming is being given the recognition it deserves. Let’s hope the farming industry will remain profitable for many years to come because it is vital that we attract young blood into the industry and young people will only come into an industry if it is successful.

“Our charity is as relevant today as it was 150 years ago because we have a vital role to play.”

Local AM Rhodri Glyn Thomas praised the work of RABI and pointed out that in Wales it handed out a total of 282,103 to beneficiaries last year. The total amount raised in Wales was 29,368 with Carmarthenshire topping the list by raising 6,225.

FUW president Gareth Vaughan said many of the union’s members and staff served on RABI committees the length and breadth of Wales and he was proud of the close working relationship between both organisations.

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