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Thursday, September 9, 1999 Published at 17:08 GMT 18:08 UK

UK: Wales

Gwyther urges farmers to be patient

Protesting farmers try to present Ms Gwyther with a "worthless" sheep

Welsh Agriculture Christine Gwyther has been met by a group of angry farmers calling for firm action on the farming crisis following her meeting with her UK counterpart in London.

BBC Wales's Rhodri Lewis reports from Carmarthen
Around 20 farmers said the time for talking was over and demanded that ministers take steps to save the crisis-hit industry.

In reponse, Ms Gwyther - who arrived in Carmarthen to open the National Assembly's agriculture office - said she was "doing all she could" and urged them to be patient.

BBC Wales's Gilbert John reports on the farming crisis
One of the protesting farmers tried to present her with a sheep made worthless by falling prices, but he was stopped by a policeman.

[ image: Christine Gwyther is urging patience]
Christine Gwyther is urging patience
Yesterday, Ms Gwyther left a three-hour meeting with Agriculture Minister Nick Brown with an assurance that he would consider Welsh aid proposals.

The National Farmers' Union in Wales described the talks as "very disappointing" and said all the farmers had been offered were more talks about talks.

But Ms Gwyther remained positive after the London meeting and insisted Welsh farmers would be assisted in the short term.

She had been seeking immediate aid to carry out a ewe cull and additional funds for a calf processing scheme in Wales.

The alternative option of the National Assembly finding the money quickly is being pressed by Plaid Cymru.

BBC Wales's Political Correspondent David Cornock reports on the meeting in London
Ms Gwyther recognised, though, that there were European Union regulations to be dealt with as well on the issue of the Assembly offering aid packages.

"We will find the money ourselves if we have to, but to actually administer the scheme we need permission from the EU and to get that permission there are a few hurdles to get over," she said.

Plaid Cymru president Dafydd Wigley said: "We are pressing for the money to come from the Treasury in London.

"It does have a reserve for this sort of crisis and we do not have this sort of money in the Assembly."

'Dig deep'

If London, though, refused to help, then the Assembly would have to "dig deep" and find the necessary funds, Mr Wigley added.

[ image: Farmers demand
Farmers demand "less talk and more action"
Mick Bates, the Welsh Liberal Democrats' agriculture spokesman, said August had been a "wasted month" for dealing with the farming crisis.

He blamed the government for setting extra charges on ewes at market which did not exist elsewhere in Europe.

"I feel the government have a distinct responsibility to correct this situation by employing a disposal scheme," he said.

Ms Gwyther said on Tuesday prior to the meeting that if Mr Brown turned down Welsh claims, the National Assembly would "go it alone" and come up with its own aid package.

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