Ahead of the Welsh Government’s statement on a new Rural Development Programme, the Plaid Cymru Shadow Minister for Sustainable Communities, Energy and Food Llyr Gruffydd has called for the Government to be true to its word and ensure funds are directed to support struggling Welsh farmers.
In December, the Minister for Natural Resources took the decision to transfer the maximum 15% of funding away from farmers and into Pillar 2. The Minister has previously said that the money would be directed back to farmers through Pillar 2 allocations.
The Plaid Cymru AM has warned that after a 44% drop in farm incomes last year the Minister must now deliver on that promise as he implements a new Rural Development Programme.
Llyr Gruffydd also said that the agriculture sector needs a specific scheme to help farmers in Less Favoured Areas, a focus on entrepreneurship within the rural economy, with a particular emphasis on attracting young people into the industry.
The Party of Wales Shadow Minister for Sustainable Communities, Energy and Food Llyr Gruffydd said:
“The Minister’s decision to cut the funding that farmers receive through direct payments by the maximum 15% was regrettable, and placed Welsh farmers at a disadvantage compared to their competitors in other parts of the UK and Europe. It meant that overnight, £286 million of funding was diverted away from them, and Welsh farmers went from being on the lowest rate of modulation in the UK to the highest level in Europe.
“The Minister reassured farmers that this money would find its way back to them when he announced the next round of funding through the Rural Development Programme. It’s now time to put his money where his mouth is.
“The RDP is a critical piece of policy for the rural economy. As a result of the Minister’s cuts, Welsh farms will find it more difficult to be as competitive as their European counterparts, so it’s imperative that they get the support they need to help them compete.
“The RDP also needs to respond to the sector’s unique needs. Upland farmers in particular need support and Plaid Cymru wants to see the establishment of a new scheme for Less Favoured Areas to help farmers dealing with particularly difficult conditions. We also want to encourage entrepreneurship in the industry and focus on how we can attract young people into agriculture.
“At a time when farm incomes have collapsed and farmgate prices are in free-fall, the Welsh Government should be rallying around our farming industry, not attacking it.
“It’s also essential we get a cast iron guarantee from the Minister that the money available from the RDP will start to flow from the beginning of 2015. Key delivery organisations such as Leader Groups are particularly vulnerable to any delay in funding and failure to receive payments on time could even threaten their very existence let alone undermine their ability to operate.”