Welsh government plans to reform farm payments for 2021 and beyond have garnered mixed reactions from farming unions.
The Sustainable Farming and our Land: Simplifying Agricultural Support consultation set out 11 technical proposals relating to basic payments, which is expected to remain in place for a number of years while a new Sustainable Farming Scheme (SFS) is developed.
The proposals aim to simplify the current CAP rules after the end of the Brexit transition period on 31 December.
Last November, rural affairs minister Lesley Griffiths announced that basic payments would continue for 2021, subject to sufficient replacement funding from the UK government.
NFU Cymru has backed plans to simplify the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) rules for 2021 – but raised concerns about rural support for farmers in Wales after Brexit.
Plans to remove crop diversification rules, while preserving the key elements of the ecological focus area (EFA) rules were a “sensible and pragmatic solution”.
NFU Cymru president John Davies said: “We request that the Welsh government proceeds without further delay to confirm these changes so our growers have clarity and certainty ahead of finalising cropping plans for 2021.”
The union said proposals to treat Welsh and English applications separately was a “common-sense solution” for farmers with land either side of the border. It also welcomed plans for an advance BPS payment in October, but has asked the government to clarify how this would work.
Rural development plan
The government’s consultation also made proposals about its own domestic Rural Development Plan (RDP) following the end of the Brexit transition period.
But NFU Cymru said it did not support the proposed revised definition of rural development, which it says “will see environmental objectives prioritised over rural economy or rural community objectives, with the needs of the people living and working in rural Wales overlooked”.
The Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) said plans to move rural development principles and objectives away from supporting farming, rural economies and jobs were “wrong”.
“The Welsh government proposes phasing out the BPS altogether and moving all of the funding to what we currently call the RDP,” said FUW president Glyn Roberts.
“This is a concern in itself, highlighted repeatedly by the FUW, given that those farmers in other countries we will be competing against will continue to receive some sort of basic payment.
“However, if funding is to be delivered to farms through the RDP in a way that protects farm businesses, rural economies and jobs, it is essential that the principles, mission, objectives and priorities of the RDP retain a focus on doing just that.”
Meanwhile, in England the Tenant Farmers Association (TFA) said it was worried by the government’s lack of clarity on future farm policy with the end of the EU transition period fast approaching.
George Dunn, TFA chief executive, said: “Defra had previously indicated that it would set out its plans in July this year. It then moved to September and, more recently, to November.
“However, now that the chancellor of the exchequer is limiting his Spending Review to just one year, we worry that the much-needed detail of the seven-year transitional period for farm policy envisaged by the government will remain hidden from view.”