Bigger Welsh farms could lose out under BPS ’top-up’ payments

Wales’ biggest farmers risk being alienated by backing the “top-up” payment model for the new Basic Payment Scheme (BPS), warn farm leaders.

The Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) believes the redistributive payments option included in the Welsh government’s consultation on the BPS – commonly referred to as the “French” model – is the fairest.

This would pay farmers an estimated €243 (£173) for their first 54ha of eligible land by 2019 and €124 (£88) for all remaining eligible land.

See also: Welsh government calls for views on revised BPS plan

The union said farmers with less than 125ha (300 acres) of eligible land would benefit under this system. This could be perceived as supporting the traditional family farm.

One of the alternatives – a flat rate model that would pay farmers around €176/ha (£126/ha) – would not be financially beneficial for 70% of farmers, it suggested.

The union’s new president, Glyn Roberts, admitted many farmers would be unhappy with the redistributive payments option, but believed it was the only realistic option.

“We have a democratically established mandate to support the implementation of this option, but it’s estimated that around 33% of recipients would be better off under a flat-rate system, while for a large number such a system will merely reduce the losses they would experience under any system,” he said.

But Tony Davies, who farms in the Elan Valley and was among a group of farmers who forced the Welsh government to scrap the original BPS, believed redistributive payments would penalise progressive farmers.

“Farmers who have had the courage to expand and to borrow money would receive less than smaller farmers if these payments are averaged out across their entire acreage and that does seem unfair,” he said.

“It seems to penalise farmers who have grasped opportunities to grow their business. It does however help smaller farmers whose cost per hectare is higher.”

The FUW would ideally like a regional payment model with better quality land attracting higher payments because it said this would cause the least disruption. However, it understands that existing maps are not accurate enough to proceed with this.

Mr Roberts urged the Welsh government to start mapping work at the “earliest opportunity” to allow this model to be considered under the next CAP.

The consultation closed on Tuesday (23 June).

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