The Welsh government must change course on CAP reform by transferring some of the money it has taken from single farm payments back 'into the pockets of Welsh farmers', according to Plaid Cymru.
On 14 January 2014 the Minister for Natural Resources and Food, Alun Davies made a statement to the National Assembly for Wales announcing his decisions for the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) Pillar 1, direct payments for farmers. The Minister also laid out his vision for how the new Rural Development Programme will support farming, in advance of consultation on the Programme beginning in February.
Speaking in his party's debate on CAP reform in the Assembly today Shadow Agriculture Minister Llyr Gruffydd AM recognised that EU rules meant it was too late for the Government to change its controversial decision to transfer nearly £250m out of direct payments to farmers (Pillar 1) into the rural development programme (Pillar 2). He nevertheless called on the Minister to utilise the option that is still open to the Government to transfer monies back from Pillar 2 to Pillar 1 in order to soften the blow to struggling Welsh farmers .
Llyr Gruffydd AM, who lives on a family farm near Ruthin said: "The extreme weather events endured in the last two years, coupled with the breathtaking 44% drop in farm incomes and the huge structural changes being introduced through CAP reform are all conspiring to create unprecedented challenges for Welsh farmers.
"Plaid Cymru believes it is perfectly justifiable for the Welsh Government to undo the damage of its maximum 15% transfer of monies from Pillar 1 to Pillar 2 by exercising its right to move some resources back the other way.
“EU regulations allow the Welsh Government to transfer up to 25% of its Pillar 2 budget to Pillar 1. They have until the 1st August to notify the European Commission if they choose to take up this opportunity and they can also review and reduce the level of transfer later on if they wish.
“Plaid Cymru also wants the Minister to introduce a moorland specific Areas of Natural Constraint scheme to provide additional support to our upland farmers. The recent review into the resilience of the industry by Kevin Roberts recognised that some additional support was needed for hill farms, particularly those in the newly reclassified moorland areas.
"Plaid cymru fears that changes to CAP could result in widespread de-stocking and subsequent environmental degradation on the highest hills. We could also face the prospect of future land abandonment bringing wider economic, environmental and social impacts to rural areas. The Government must therefore take action now to provide additional support for those in greatest need.
“We all share the longer-term vision of a more resilient rural economy, but the way this government is going about it feels more like an attack on the industry.”