Welsh farmers are to receive direct subsidies for an additional year in 2021 because of the delay to Brexit.
It is the second reprieve in 12 months for the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) in Wales. The rollout of the new system of support payments was due to begin following the 2019 BPS payment, but that was delayed last year until 2020, and now 2021.
The Welsh government announced the latest postponement on Monday (25 November), stating that it was a direct result of the UK’s delayed exit from the EU. This has meant that its plans to transition to a new Land Management Programme have had to be paused.
Honouring the 2021 payment comes with a proviso – it relies on the Welsh government receiving sufficient levels of funding for agricultural support from the next UK government, said rural affairs minister Lesley Griffiths.
Although she couldn’t guarantee the extent of that funding, she said she wanted the BPS to remain in place to provide assurances to farmers and to help them to plan ahead.
Delay until 2022
The earliest any transition to the new targeted system of farm support can now start is 2022.
Farm leaders welcomed the news but took the opportunity to warn of the consequences of scrapping the BPS.
Farmers’ Union of Wales president Glyn Roberts said: “Changes which result in the loss of the current system, which is the envy of the rest of the UK, and its replacement with complex environmental contracts, would be a massive own goal and a step backwards – not to mention immensely damaging for Welsh businesses.”
The Brexit delay may have safeguarded the BPS for an additional year but fewer farmers than in the previous year will receive their full 2019 BPS cash on 2 December, day one of the payments window.
This year only around 75% of farmers will get their full payment on that day – last year it was over 85%.
However, farmers that don’t receive their full payment, but have applied for the BPS Support scheme – an interest-free government loan – will receive up to 90% of their BPS 2019 claim value.
‘No deal’ planning
Ms Griffiths said the reason Wales would not achieve a similar level as in previous years of paying all BPS cash to farmers at the earliest opportunity was because her priority had been preparing farmers for the possibility of a no-deal Brexit.
“As long as farmers have applied for the Support scheme, they will receive the majority of their BPS payment claim value from 9 December,” she said.
“I hope this provides farmers with some certainty and I would strongly advise those that haven’t submitted an application to do so before the 29 November deadline.”
In England, Defra has not announced any delay to the start of the rollout of its new “public money for public goods” farm payments scheme, which is due to start after Brexit in 2021 alongside the phased withdrawal of BPS over seven years.