President, Chairman, it gives me the greatest possible pleasure to be back at The Royal Welsh Show for the second year in a row. I happen to think that this agricultural show is one of the jolliest, and I know that it is also one of the most successful, not only in the United Kingdom, but world-wide.

Llywydd, Cadeirydd, mae'n rhoi pleser mawr iawn i mi i fod nôl yn Sioe Frenhinol Cymru am yr ail flwyddyn yn olynol.

[President, Chairman, it gives me very great pleasure to be back at the Royal Welsh Show for the second year in a row].

President, Chairman, it gives me the greatest possible pleasure to be back at The Royal Welsh Show for the second year in a row. I happen to think that this agricultural show is one of the jolliest, and I know that it is also one of the most successful, not only in the United Kingdom, but world-wide.

Today I am sure I will see some of the finest livestock in the country with animals produced for the show ring with loving skill and care. I will also see the best in Welsh speciality food, and I will see new ways to manage sustainably the woodlands and forests of Wales. Later I will present awards for long service in agriculture and for the highest standards of agricultural practice.

There is so much here to be celebrated and it could not happen at a more important time. You do not need me to remind you that a great many farmers are still going through desperately difficult times. And their plight is not helped by what seems to be a growing divide between those who live and work in the countryside, and the majority who live in urban areas.

The Royal Welsh Agricultural Society can, and does, do much to bridge that divide and to foster greater understanding of the needs and the value of rural Wales. I happen to believe deeply that our countryside, wherever it is, is a profoundly precious national asset that should be treasured. The people who live in it, many of them farming families who are here today, are an invaluable and unique part of our country's heritage and culture. And the countryside, which those who live in cities rightly like to enjoy, would be nothing without the care exercised by our farmers.

Their skills and their learning have been built up over long periods of time. Many of the cattle and sheep you will see over the next four days come from herds and flocks which have been handed down from generation to generation. That is what farming is all about - it depends on continuity and on commitment.

But it also depends on initiative and resourcefulness. And I am delighted to say that Welsh farmers are increasingly using it in abundance to come through these hard times. They are grasping new opportunities not just to survive, but to thrive.

The breed societies have done excellent work to improve the quality of their stock. I am particularly proud, as an owner of Welsh Black cattle myself, that this year the Welsh Blacks won the prestigious Burke Trophy against all beef breeds at The Royal Show. There can be few higher accolades for a breed.

Earlier this year, with the Meat and Livestock Commission, I invited a group of European chefs to this country to see for themselves the quality of British beef. After two days, and eating a great deal more beef than they probably wanted, (and a lot of it no doubt on the bone!) they needed little persuading that British beef is best. They all commented on its quality, its tenderness and its taste. And with some of the finest grassland in Britain on which to raise cattle and sheep, Wales should surely have a head start on quality.

Niche marketing is another way Wales is winning through. And I know you will all say that I would say this - wouldn't I - and I would hate to disappoint you! - but there can be few better ways to add value to your product than by converting to organic production and, dare I say it, by being, as far as possible, in a GM-free country. I am delighted that the Agri-food partnership in Wales has set a target of converting ten per cent of farm production in Wales to organic by 2005. This is a good start and those who have already converted are reaping the benefits. As Chancellor of The University of Wales, I could not be more pleased that the University in Aberystwyth has just opened an Organic Centre to spread best practice and give practical help and encouragement.

And although the reduction in milk prices has caused a tragically large number of dairy farmers to sell their farms, there is cause for optimism too. There are many excellent examples of farmhouse producers developing successful businesses selling everything from cheese to yoghurt. And I look forward to meeting some of them later - and perhaps tasting some of their wares!

But what makes Welsh produce particularly marketable is the beauty of the countryside - it is one of its greatest assets. We should therefore be encouraging people to "eat the view!". I am very heartened by the strong uptake of the Tir Gofal scheme run by the Countryside Council for Wales providing financial help to farmers to preserve and enhance the environmental aspects of their farm. This must be one way, at least, to alleviate the financial hardship suffered by many farmers.

But there are still problems ahead. The future of small and medium-sized abattoirs, and the seemingly endless growth in regulations which threatens to stifle the enterprise of the farmer with the courage to diversify, are issues about which I care deeply. I am encouraged that the newly formed Food Standards Agency has set up task forces on both these issues and many of us are watching anxiously for the results. And time is of the essence, particularly for the abattoirs.

Meanwhile, The Royal Welsh Agricultural Society should be congratulated, not just for yet another splendid Show, but for having the determination to press ahead with its major investment in the Royal Welsh Exhibition Centre, which I much look forward to opening in a little while. This is an important mark of confidence in the future of Welsh agriculture which should send a signal to all those who care about the countryside. Wales has so much in its favour, some of the finest grassland in Europe, incomparable scenery and skilled farmers. I pray with all my heart that the future may be brighter and, above all, that the farming community and all that it stands for, is supported, protected and cherished.

Rwy'n falch iawn i ddatgan fod Sioe Frenhinol Cymru dwy fil ar agor.
[I am delighted to declare the Royal Welsh Show 2000 open].

Ladies and gentlemen, it gives me great pleasure to declare The Royal Welsh Show 2000 open.