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Calls are being made for a revamp of the Welsh government’s rural development programme (RDP) because of fears that large numbers of producers are being locked out of a crucial scheme.

One of the key objectives of the RDP is to improve competitiveness in the agriculture sector, but there is concern too many farmers are being excluded from the Sustainable Production Grants (SPG) scheme.

Under current rules of the SPG, there is a minimum grant threshold of £16,000 which requires a total project spend of £40,000. Farm leaders claim this is beyond the reach of many farmers in Wales.

SPG details

  • Designed to help farmers improve the economic and environmental performance of their agricultural holdings.
  • Grant can be used to invest in facilities and equipment that relate to the following five investment themes: animal health and welfare, crop storage, renewable energy production and soil and crop management.
  • Maximum grant rate for any individual investment project is 40% of the total investment.
  • Minimum threshold for a grant is £16,000 and maximum is £400,000.
  • Only one application allowed per farm business during 2014-2020 period.

See also: €1bn grant approved for Welsh Rural Development Programme

Stephen James, NFU Cymru president, said all farmers had contributed to the RDP since 15% of their direct payments had been transferred across in order to fund Pillar 2 (rural development) spending.

“There will be farmers across Wales who wish to make significant investments over the next five years or so and the Sustainable Production Grant scheme should support farmers to do this. 

“However, many farmers are telling us that the minimum investment of £40,000 is too high given the current state of the industry, with difficult marketing conditions across a number of sectors. 

“For this reason we believe a small grant scheme should be introduced to complement the SPG, which would support farmers to fund capital items such as cattle- or sheep-handling facilities and electronic weigh scales, for example. This would be accessible to far greater number of farmers.”

Speaking to assembly members on Tuesday (6 October), first minister Carwyn Jones claimed he was prepared to be flexible when it came to the RDP.

“We will look at any scheme that will be of assistance and will be effective in helping farming to become more sustainable in the future.”