Welsh government ‘out of touch’ with drought-hit farmers

The Welsh government has been accused of being “out of touch” with farmers after it announced that the Basic Payment date will not be brought forward this year.

In a written statement released on Thursday (23 August), Welsh rural affairs secretary Lesley Griffiths said about 90% of farm businesses in Wales could expect to receive their BPS money on day one of the payment window (1 December).

The remaining 10% of farm businesses – where BPS claims will not be validated – will be able to apply for a loan payment of up to 70% of the claim value, which will be paid in early December.

See also: How to act on drought and tightening fodder supplies

The Welsh Conservatives criticised the government for not following the Scottish government’s lead and making loans available from early October.

“This is a disgraceful decision from the Welsh Labour government and shows how out of touch they are with the reality on the ground,” said shadow rural affairs secretary Andrew RT Davies.

 “Farmers have been paying throughout the summer for fodder which has become very expensive and has damaged cash flow.”

BPS delays add to strain

Mr Davies said asking Welsh farmers to wait until December to receive their BPS cash would “add considerable strain on an already difficult position for the farming industry and rural economy across Wales”.

He urged the cabinet secretary and her officials to listen to farmers and reconsider this “ill-thought-out decision”.   

Farmers’ Union of Wales president Glyn Roberts said: “Scottish Labour criticised the Scottish government for being slow to confirm loans would be available in October for farmers unable to afford to buy fodder and feed following a disastrous harvest – and for not going far enough.

“Yet in Wales, where Labour are in power, the Welsh government propose going nowhere near as far as what is proposed in Scotland.”

Ms Griffiths said she was conscious that the Welsh farming unions had been calling on her government to bring forward BPS 2018 payments, but doing so “would not resolve the immediate or longer term implications of the exceptional weather”.

This would also create a disparity between businesses that have and have not received payments, she added.

£500,000 donation

However, the Welsh government announced a £500,000 donation to farming charities to provide short-term support to families in Wales who are least able to meet living costs.

The announcements follow an emergency dry weather summit held at last month’s Royal Welsh Show, which resulted in further derogations for farmers in the Glastir agri-environment scheme.

Farmers struggling with cash flow issues should also consider contacting their bank “as early as possible” and the Welsh government’s Farming Connect service.

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