Upland farmers secure better BPS deal

Large, extensive hill farms have won a better deal in the Welsh government’s finalised plans for the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS).

Following months of uncertainty and a legal challenge by hill farmers to the original proposals, deputy farm minister Rebecca Evans announced on Tuesday (7 July) that Wales would move to a flat-rate payment system by 2019.

But there will be an “add-on” redistributive payment for the first 54ha (133 acres) of farmland.

See also: Hill farmers challenge direct payment rules

Under this model it is anticipated that farmers will be paid €243 (£173) for the first 54ha of eligible land per farm and €124 (£88) for all remaining eligible land by 2019.

Although Mrs Evans insisted this option treated all farmers equally, intensive lowland farms, which would have been paid €200/ha (£143/acre) under the Welsh government’s original proposals, will lose out.

Large, extensive hill farms that would have received just €20/ha (£14/acre) will gain substantially.

The original scheme was scrapped after the legal challenge in November 2014 by lobby group Fairness for the Uplands.

The group included hill farmer Tony Davies, whose land is in the Elan Valley.

Reacting to Tuesday’s announcement, he said the group had favoured a flat rate by 2019 with no add-ons.

“However, on a positive note, even with the redistributive option, we concede that it is much fairer than the original proposed scheme, which was unlawful,’’ he said.

“I am also pleased that our government has introduced a scheme that was in the consultation papers, unlike last year.’’

The Farmers’ Union of Wales calculated that under the new scheme, financial losses for about 70% of claimants would be reduced.

NFU Cymru wanted a scheme based on differential payment rates.

Union president Stephen James said: “Today’s announcement will please some of our members, who will see this as the most suitable of the realistic options left remaining to the Welsh government.

“Others will naturally be deeply concerned at the impact this decision will have on their business and will fear for how they will be able to adapt their business to significant changes in EU support payments.’’

Now that the government has agreed a model for the scheme, it will need to get it approved by the European Commission.

It said it intended to move swiftly so that part-payments could be made as early as possible in the EU payments window, which opens on 1 December.

CLA Cymru said it would lobby for complementary support from the Rural Development Programme for farmers and landowners.

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