Thoughts on 2020
Broken promises by the UK Tory Government will have a potentially devastating impact on farmers in Wales.
The Conservative election Manifesto in 2019 said it would guarantee the current annual CAP budget to farmers in every year of this Parliament.
Yet less than 12 months later Boris Johnson has broken his promise with a whopping £137 million cut in agricultural funding support to Wales. Farmers I’ve spoken to feel hoodwinked, lied to, conned.
It’s an absolute betrayal – not my words but those of the farming unions.
Welsh farming, like so many other key industries, requires measures to provide certainty and stability in these uncertain times. For farming businesses this is delivered through the Basic Payment Scheme and this must be the ongoing priority for Welsh Government. The £243 million provided through the BPS is vital to ensure Welsh agriculture can continue to maintain output and employ around 80,000 people in the food and farming sector. If this support is lost, it puts the entire sector at risk alongside associated rural businesses, contractors and services that are heavily reliant on Welsh farming.
Maintaining the BPS is key if Welsh farmers are to remain able to secure the supply of safe, high quality and affordable food. It is a vital safety net for Welsh farmers – making up more than 80% of farming income in Wales
To make matters worse, Welsh red meat farmers – who rely more than other parts of the UK on exports to the EU – are preparing for the end of the Brexit transition period. Even at this late stage, it’s unclear whether the UK Government will secure an agreement. Meat Promotions Wales has warned that in a no deal scenario farmgate prices would collapse by about 30%. Even if there is a deal, the level of additional costs and bureaucracy to acces EU markets will add significant costs. These costs will no doubt be passed back to Welsh farmers and place further pressure on farm profitability.
Remember when we were told this was the easiest deal in history?
And having broken their promise on maintaining farm funding, then what hope for all the other EU replacement funds that the Conservatives pledged would be paid in full to Wales?
The Treasury has deducted the £97m remaining in the Welsh RDP from its allocation to Wales, despite knowing full well that the N+3 rule means Wales has until 2023 to spend it. Many of us had warned that Welsh Government needed to get that money out into the farming community in a more timely manner and now they’ve burnt their fingers due to those delays.
This adds further strength to our demands for an independent inquiry into the Government’s handling of the RDP in Wales.
This funding cut also raises questions about the Welsh Government’s proposals for a Sustainable Farming Scheme. I have been warning for a long time that developing proposals for a once in a generation reform of farm support without knowing what funding might be available for such a scheme is a dubious approach. So I’ve challenged the minister to explain how this reduction in funding might affect her future plans.
The Minister had previously confirmed that the BPS would be maintained for next year, but she declined my invitation in the Senedd this week to confirm that it would be maintained at its current funding level. It’s likely that the London money-grab will have far-reaching consequences for every farm in Wales.
This Tory cut doesn’t augur well for rural Wales as we face what will undoubtedly be a very challenging year ahead.
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