NFU Cymru concerned at timing of government consultation

Farmers have concerns over the timing of the consultation as the UK approaches the October Brexit deadline
Farmers have concerns over the timing of the consultation as the UK approaches the October Brexit deadline

NFU Cymru has expressed concerns that the timing of Welsh government’s ‘Sustainable Farming and our Land’ consultation, which sets out revised proposals for how it intends to support farmers after Brexit, is misjudged.

It initially wrote to the Minister for Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths, at the end of June asking for Welsh government to consider its planned timetable for issuing consultations and progressing other work streams over the summer.

The union cites an increasing threat of a 'cliff edge Brexit' and that all efforts should be focused on avoiding it.

NFU Cymru said Welsh farming is currently operating in a 'period of profound uncertainty'.

LFA Board Chair, Richard Tudor said: “At this moment in time we have absolutely no clarity as to what our future trading relationships will be, and there is the very real threat of leaving the EU with ‘no deal’ on 31st October.”

“Against this backdrop it is impossible for farmers to properly consider revised proposals for future policy and we strongly believe the consultation should be delayed.

“The focus of our government should be on providing as much stability and certainty as possible to Welsh farm businesses,” he said.

Welsh government proposals include replacing the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) and Glastir with a Sustainable Farming Scheme.

This will comprise of two elements – business support with a focus on advice, capital investment and skills development and the Sustainable Farming Payment, which will reward farmers for the delivery of mainly environmental outcomes.

The plans will build on the existing offer of support for business development, which is currently delivered through Farming Connect, Farm Business Grant and the Sustainable Production Grant, funded via the Rural Development Programme (RDP).

NFU Cymru Rural Affairs Board Chair, Hedd Pugh said: “With Welsh government planning to end BPS, all the proposed replacement mechanisms broadly replicate measures in the current RDP or Pillar 2. This will not fill farmers with confidence.

“Our experience of Welsh government’s implementation and delivery of the current RDP has not been altogether positive.

“Up to the end of May 2019, RDP spend stands at just 39% for the programme period 2014-2020.

“The slow rate of roll-out means that Welsh farm businesses are not receiving the support promised at the time of the pillar transfer in 2013.

“Opportunities to access RDP funds have been limited for farming businesses, application windows have been sporadic and often under-resourced with applicants turned away.”

He added: “Whilst the consultation provides significant analysis on the case for ending BPS, it is astonishing that no objective analysis has been provided on the effectiveness of the current RDP, and how similar measures can deliver in the absence of BPS.

“The full cost of the advisor-led approach to the proposed Sustainable Farming Payment must also be properly understood. An advisor-led approach should not be used to remedy an over-complex scheme design.”