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What the future rural economy of Wales should look like

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The FSB has recently published a new report which focused on what the future of Wales’ rural economy should look like.

We live in a time of distinct change and so there is no better opportunity to make sure that change is taking place effectively and benefitting businesses and the self-employed across rural Wales.

Discussing this new project at the Royal Welsh Show last week gave us many opportunities to raise this with business owners, politicians and policy makers.

A Taskforce for Rural Economies – FSB Wales’ new report which was launched at the Royal Welsh Show – makes the case that the rural economy must not simply be considered an agricultural economy.

Given the need to diversify the rural economy and create opportunities for new businesses as well as some of the potential challenges posed by Brexit, the report suggests that the Welsh rural economy must in turn change to meet those demands and capitalise on any opportunities.

The recommended Taskforce would also aim to remove barriers to economic development for rural communities, empower rural communities to identify their economic strengths, and encourage rural communities to diversify and inclusively grow their local economies.

Rural businesses must be supported to diversify and increase the value of their product. If an expert Taskforce were able to support businesses who are ambitious and seeking to diversify, extend or increase the value of their offer, rural Wales could have an even stronger and more distinctive offer than it already does.

That’s why we’re calling for a Rural Taskforce that can administer a Rural Challenge Fund. This would be an open fund designed to attract new ideas and new thinking for economic development in rural areas. The emphasis would be on allowing rural areas to design their own projects and interventions in a number of areas in order to further economic development.

This could include ideas such as farm diversification into areas such as renewable energy and food production or projects to increase the impact of local procurement spend.

We are working at a time when economic development conversations are increasingly regionally focused, and the output of a new Taskforce would be a testbed for conversations around the development of a Growing Mid-Wales Deal, which is something FSB sees as important for the region.