Farmers do not trust Welsh government to deliver subsidies, says Welsh Conservative leader Davies

Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies
Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies

Farmers do not trust the Welsh government to deliver fit for purpose subsidies when the UK leaves the European Union, Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies has said.

Speaking on the first day of the Royal Welsh Fair, Mr Davies said farmers had more confidence in the UK government rather than the devolved assembly. Currently, under the EU CAP policy, Wales receives around £250m per year.

"There is a view among farmers and most businessmen and women in the rural economy that they would not trust the Welsh government to deliver a package of support that would be fit for purpose, they would have greater confidence in the UK government being able to do that.

"From my conversations with people in agriculture, and I am a farmer myself, most people seem to identify a role, an important role, for the UK Government in shaping UK government policies because there is such a thing as UK agriculture."

But Rural Affairs Secretary Lesley Griffiths said there was 'little appetite' from farmers for Westminster to take control.

"I have detected little appetite for Westminster to retake responsibility over agriculture in Wales. Indeed, many have indicated a keen willingness to work with me to develop distinctively Welsh agriculture policies, responsive to the unique needs and interests of Wales' farming communities," she said.

Dr Andrew Francis, the NFU's chief economics and international affairs adviser, said: "he EU single market is by far our biggest export destination, and access to foreign markets is crucial for farming businesses.

"The NFU is urging government to limit our exposure to imports produced at lower standards in order to safeguard our sensitive sectors. It is a very early stage to formulate a detailed alternative to CAP. However, we need a flexible policy framework reflecting the business and trade settlement that includes volatility mitigation and a broad scheme for the farmed environment, amongst other measures."

'Thousands of farms at risk'

Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Mark Williams launched the 'not a penny less' campaign in September, highlighting that the UK is 'failing' to support farmers in the long term.

"The subsidy regime is not something farmers welcome but it's a reality for the farming industry at the moment. There has been some concern in farming circles that those existing subsidies will be removed... this is a lifeline so I understand their anxiety.

"The ramifications of many farming businesses going bust… [are] huge for rural communities. It's at that point you factor in how feasible it is for village schools to stay open, as well as other service providers and bus routes."

He said that "on balance", he would prefer to see the Welsh Government, not UK ministers, keep control of farm support payments.

The Lib-Dems said 4,402 farms in the South West alone were at risk. Nationally, it estimates 20,600 farmers would be driven out of businesses unless they continue to get financial support.

"Farmers making decisions now about buying livestock and investing for the future are being left in the dark about what will come after 2020. I am calling on the government to reassure farmers that they are not going to face cuts to the support they rely on after 2020," said Lib Dem leader Tim Farron.

'UK government has failed'

Plaid Cymru Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Simon Thomas, has hit out at Wales' Tory leader.

According to Plaid Cymru, the UK Government has 'failed' to guarantee that payments will continue beyond 2020, despite the guarantee of the Leave campaign ahead of the referendum that Welsh EU cash would be maintained.

Plaid Cymru's Simon Thomas AM said: "Back in June, Andrew RT Davies loudly proclaimed "we now know that funding for each and every part of the UK would be safe if we vote to leave." Five months on and the empty pledges made by the Brexiteers to Welsh farmers are unravelling.

"Rural Wales benefits greatly from EU funding. Far from guaranteeing that direct payments will continue post-2020, the UK Government has completely failed to offer any security to farmers whose livelihoods are on the line.

"With this attitude being adopted by the Westminster government, it is absurd and irresponsible for the Leader of the Conservatives in Wales to claim that farming subsidies would be better administered from London.