Action is needed to address rural crime, a farming union has said.
The NFU Cymru has said the next UK Government needs to address the issue which it said is a blight on life in the countryside.
The union’s rural affairs board made the call after meeting this week. It said farmers from across Wales are increasingly concerned about criminal activity including vehicle thefts, livestock theft, fly-tipping, sheep worrying, trespass, poaching, arson, vandalism and fraud.
NFU Cymru rural affairs board chair Hedd Pugh said: "Crime in rural areas affects members of the farming community disproportionately. It costs farmers time and money and also presents a risk to human health, farm animals, wildlife and the environment.
"NFU Cymru members are experiencing increases in various rural crime incidents that severely impact their farm businesses and strike fear and distress into our rural communities.
"NFU Cymru is committed to making sure that farmers are not seen as a ‘soft target’ for criminals. Ahead of the 2017 General Election, the union is seeking clear commitments from all political parties to address rural crime issues that are having a huge impact on farming communities and agricultural businesses."
Action the next government could take includes providing more funds for forces in rural areas and update sentencing guidelines to acknowledge the impact of rural crime, said the union.
"Whilst businesses who have been the victims of crime have taken steps to reduce the risk themselves, it is clear that much more must be done and the next Westminster Government must address rural crime and ensure that future funding for policing reflects the additional costs associated with policing in rural area; and the Ministry of Justice should direct the Sentencing Council to ensure up to date Magistrates’ Court Sentencing Guidelines are in place for all rural crimes.
“Police forces in Wales, most notably North Wales Police’s Rural Crime Unit, have worked in conjunction with the industry to tackle rural crime head on – and for this continued, concerted effort, NFU Cymru and its members are very grateful.”
One of NFU Cymru’s top 10 policy asks for the 2017 General Election is ‘Rural Crime such as fly-tipping, livestock theft and illegal off-roading, continues to blight rural communities. The next UK Government must show that it is serious about rural crime, through funding which reflects the additional cost of policing rural areas and by refreshing sentencing guidelines to ensure that a deterrent effect is achieved.’