Welsh farm leaders demand First Minister to maintain rural budget

Farmers in Wales could see a loss of £37.5 million to the country's rural budget
Farmers in Wales could see a loss of £37.5 million to the country's rural budget

Welsh farm leaders have jointly written to the First Minister to express 'deep concern' over the loss of £37.5m in the rural affairs budget.

They have called for 'budgetary certainty' for the rural affairs portfolio ahead of the Welsh government publishing its draft budget later this month.

The Labour-led government has already warned that it faces its ‘toughest financial position since devolution’.

Earlier this year, it made a number of in-year cuts as part of a ‘reprioritisation’ of its overall budget to address a significant funding shortfall.

Farmers could see a loss of £37.5m to the rural budget resulting from the review, a cut of 7.9% to a budget that has not seen an increase for a decade.

Wales' rural and agricultural portfolio, worth £482 million, represents just 2% of the Welsh government's overall budget.

The letter to First Minister Mark Drakeford, signed by numerous groups such as NFU Cymru, Farmers' Union of Wales and RSPB Cymru, says the industry is 'deeply concerned'.

It reads: “It is vitally important that as a minimum, this budget is maintained to ensure that our obligations and ambitions in relation to food, nature and climate are achieved.

"This at a time when farmers and land managers are being asked to deliver far more for society than at any time previously in an extremely challenging economic landscape.

“As farming and environmental organisations, we are clear that any further cuts... will seriously threaten and undermine our rural communities and our ability to meet our shared aspiration to be global leaders in the production of climate and nature friendly food.”

The letter has been signed by CLA Cymru, Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW), NFU Cymru, National Trust Cymru, RSPB Cymru, Wales YFC, Tenant Farmers’ Association and Welsh Organic Forum.

The cuts come against a backdrop of funding to farmers having effectively fallen by 30% over the past decade as a result of inflation.

Responding, NFU Cymru recently warned that it would place further financial challenges on farms which 'continue to deliver for the people and communities of Wales'.

The union's deputy president Abi Reader said: “It is a real worry for the industry to see this loss to the budget.

“Welsh farming is facing unprecedented challenges, with input costs now 40% higher than they were in 2020.

"At the same time, farmers need to continue to produce high quality safe and affordable food for all in society, helping to meet both domestic and global security challenges.

"At a time when our farmers are facing a number of high-priority demands, our government has cut our budget by 7.9%."