NFU Cymru urges 'repurpose' of Rural Development resources

Welsh farm businesses continue to be affected by unprecedented levels of supply chain disruption
Welsh farm businesses continue to be affected by unprecedented levels of supply chain disruption

NFU Cymru has told the Welsh government to 'repurpose and redeploy' resources from the Wales Rural Development Programme to support farmers through the Covid-19 crisis.

While the union highlighted the 'important role' the RPD has played, it has called for an 'urgent repurpose' of the EU programme's resources as the industry struggles through the pandemic.

The seven-year EU and Welsh government funded scheme focuses mainly on restoring and preserving ecosystems related to agriculture and forestry, and enhancing viability and competitiveness of farm businesses.

NFU Cymru's request comes in light of the European Commission announcement last week that a Covid-19 measure is to be included within the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development.

The measure, designed to provide member states with a ‘ready-to-use’ solution, allows farmers to be supported with a one-off lump sum of up to €5,000.

In a letter to Welsh government's minister for rural affairs Lesley Griffiths, NFU Cymru said a package of support for farming is 'going to be vital' if farmers are to continue producing food during the crisis.

President John Davies said: “Whilst we still await sight of the draft regulation, the announcement from the European Commission appears to provide member states with flexibility to provide support to farmers struggling with Covid-19.

"We are aware that some RDP funding remains uncommitted. The delivery of some RDP projects designed to support the industry during normal times may also be challenged in the context of social distancing measures, or they may not be appropriate at this time of crisis.

"That is why we have called on Welsh government to work with the industry and repurpose and redeploy the RDP to assist farm businesses with much needed aid.”

He added: “We want to be clear that, whilst the Covid-19 measure within the RDP may temporarily ease cashflow, in many instances this is unlikely to make up for the substantial losses farm businesses are incurring.

"We see this as part of a range of measures that need to be delivered by Welsh government."

In addition, NFU Cymru has asked that Welsh government ring-fence for farming the 15% pillar transfer of approximately £45m announced last December for distribution to farm businesses as a top-up to the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) in 2020.

It has also re-iterated an ask made last autumn that the additional £5.2 million per year for the next two years made as part of the UK government’s response to the Lord Bew review is used as a top-up to the BPS.