Many Welsh farm businesses would struggle to survive without CAP subsidies if the UK voted to leave the EU, farm commissioner Phil Hogan has warned.
During a lively debate in Brecon, Powys, Mr Hogan told farmers that CAP subsidies were “critically important” to farming and rural employment in Wales.
With about 60,000 people employed on farms across Wales, the country is a net beneficiary of EU financial support under the CAP, receiving more in EU funding than it contributes.
If you are a dairy farmer who has invested £400,000 and you are being paid a miserable 13p/litre for your milk, how can that amount to a feeling of safety? John Davies, Pembrokeshire farmer referring to CAP
Mr Hogan told farmers attending the debate that pro-Brexit campaigners, who claim a UK-designed agricultural policy would better serve the interests of farming, had failed to put “flesh on the bones” of this claim.
Outside the EU, agricultural spending would be subject to the same annual review by the British Treasury as every other government department. “Can Welsh farmers compete with the City of London, doctors, nurses and schools in such a review?” Mr Hogan asked.
But Mr Hogan was challenged by farmers, especially on the diminishing value of their subsidies.
Upland farmer Gareth Davies, one of about 200 at the meeting, said not only had his Basic Payment Scheme payment “reduced enormously”, but he was also receiving £100 a head less for his cattle, while his lamb price was down by £10 a head.
“Why do you expect us to support you when our prices and our subsidies are down?” Mr Davies asked.
Mr Hogan admitted there were “serious market difficulties” but said that the UK had experienced these problems before and had worked its way forward through greater market support. “We need the safety net of the funds we are getting from the CAP,” he insisted.
But Pembrokeshire farmer John Davies, who chaired the meeting, suggested that not many farmers were feeling safe. “If you are a dairy farmer who has invested £400,000 and you are being paid a miserable 13p/litre for your milk, how can that amount to a feeling of safety?”
Garry Williams, who farms at Blaen Cennen Farm, Gwynfe, Carmarthenshire, said Pillar 1 and 2 funding sustained his business, and he questioned Stuart Agnew, a Ukip member of the European Parliament, on the level of support he believed Wales could receive if the UK exited the EU.
“I can’t see the UK government walking away from agriculture,” countered Mr Agnew.