With prospective politicians from all parties vying to capture the farming vote in Wales, one candidate is pledging to chain himself to the railings at Westminister if Welsh farmers receive even a penny less in support post Brexit.
At a general election hustings hosted by the Farmers’ Union of Wales at the Royal Welsh Showground in Builth Wells, candidates from all the main political parties agreed that, in a country with so many family farms reliant on subsidies, a taxpayer-funded programme of support must continue.
But Labour candidate for the Brecon and Radnor constituency, Dan Lodge, went a step further.
“The starting point for negotiations should be not a penny less. Wales needs special treatment and if that is not forthcoming I would chain myself to the railings of Westminster.
“We have got to keep farmers in business because the rural economy is reliant on farming. Every £1 farmers spend in the local economy is worth £7 to the wider community.”
Many Welsh farms are financially reliant on direct subsidies and other candidates believed any reduction in current levels would harm the industry
James Gibson-Watt, standing for the Liberal Democrats, said with competing demands for financial support from other sectors, Welsh agriculture was “terribly vulnerable” to cutbacks.
“The government could take the view that there is too much money being paid to too few people to support a small part of the economy, but if you reduce levels of support, the industry will be harmed.”
With World Trade Organization rules preventing farmers making a profit from environmental schemes, many upland farmers rely on direct payments to stay in business.
Previous MP for Brecon and Radnor, Conservative Chris Davies, favoured direct payments because they provided a “safety net” for the family farm.
But he said farming unions were pushing for a framework of environmental support because they believed this would be “easier to sell”.
“It is wrong for politicians to shape the future; it has to come from farmers and the farming unions. Tell us what you want and what is needed,” said Mr Davies.
Panel Brexit concerns
Brexit issues elicited some differences of opinion at the hustings.
Liberal candidate James Gibson-Watt reckoned staying tied to the single European market would give farmers “all of the difficulties, but with no control whatsoever”.
Ukip candidate Peter Gilbert, meanwhile, was confident that a trade deal would be struck with Europe. “We are seeing a lot of theatre, but behind the scenes I think there is a framework for deals being created.’’
But Plaid Cymru candidate Kate Heneghan questioned whether some farms would even survive the next two years.
She said farmers needed continued funding and advocated Plaid’s proposal for a “business bank” for Wales as a way of helping farmers diversify.