Petition against flat-rate payments in Wales gains support

A petition demanding a fairer system for distributing basic payments in Wales, which takes into consideration regional differences, is gaining momentum among farmers.

More than 140 farmers have added their names to the petition since it was launched earlier this month on the website of the National Assembly for Wales. 

The petition, submitted by lobby group Farmers for Regional Payments (FFRP), calls on the Welsh government to reconsider its decision to introduce a flat-rate model for payment from Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) subsidy to Welsh farmers.

See also: 14 policy changes that would help farmers in Wales

FFRP, a group of more than 50 predominantly lowland farmers, claims flat-rate payments penalise more productive farmers.

The petition says: “In July 2015, the Welsh government made the decision to move to a flat-rate payment per hectare to all Welsh farmers under the BPS.

“As a result of this decision, it is estimated that 1,323 farms will lose more than €2,500 (£1,964), many of which will see their payments reducing by around 40-60% over a five-year period.

“Lost payments will amount to up to €100,000 (£78,500) per farm, per year from now until 2019.”

The petition warns that the flat-rate payment model for all Welsh farmers will lead to unemployment and business failure, damaging effects on the environment and the quality and quantity of Welsh food production.

“There are substantial differences in the productivity of farmland in Wales. Therefore, regional application of the BPS is imperative,” says the petition.

“The decision will also disadvantage productive farmers in Wales against equivalent farmers in other countries, with English farmers, for example, receiving BPS payments on a regional basis.”

Following a consultation, Rebecca Evans, Wales’ deputy minister for food and farming, announced in July that the Welsh government would introduce a flat-rate payment system with a five-year transition for all claimants to be paid at the same rate per hectare by 2019.

She said: “It treats all farmers equally in moving payments to the same value per hectare by 2019 in five annual steps, meets most of our policy goals, including providing opportunities for new entrants; and it gives a clear basis on which our farmers can plan for the future.”

Meanwhile, NFU Cymru president Stephen James said it was “unacceptable” that nearly five months into the payment window hundreds of Welsh farmers were still waiting to receive their BPS part payment – of approximately 80% of their total claim – for 2015.

Mr James is particularly concerned about the plight of cross-border farmers who have not yet been paid due to the “failure of the paying agencies in England and Wales to effectively share data”.

A spokesman for the Welsh government said up to Wednesday (30 March), 95% of Welsh farmers had received their BPS part payment and only “complex cases” were still to be paid.