Welsh government plans to end direct payments in 2022

The post-Brexit plans are being consulted on until 25 March 2021
The post-Brexit plans are being consulted on until 25 March 2021

Direct payments in Wales are set to end in 2022 and will be replaced with a new Sustainable Farming Scheme, according to new plans by the Welsh government.

The White Paper on Agriculture in Wales, published on Wednesday (16 December), sets out proposals paving the way for an Agriculture (Wales) Bill, which will be introduced in the next Senedd term.

The paper sets out a '15-20 year vision to create a sustainable agricultural sector', detailing plans on how farmers will be supported to 'produce food in a sustainable way'.

Proposals will see the replacement of the current Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) and agri-environment schemes with a new Sustainable Farming Scheme (SFS).

The Welsh government's intention is to continue with BPS until 2022, subject to confirmation of funding from the UK government.

The SFS will place a value on the environmental outcomes farmers deliver, such as improved soils, clean air, clean water and improved biodiversity, alongside sustainable food production.

The payment rates for the new post-Brexit scheme will be published in spring 2021.

New National Minimum Standards for agriculture will also be created and consulted upon, which will be supported by a 'new enforcement regime'.

This will use a "range of civil sanctions proportionate to each individual case whilst maintaining criminal sanctions for the most severe and repeat offences," the paper says.

Other proposals in the paper include rewarding farmers for creating woodland, simplification of data collection, supporting the sector to decarbonise and improving animal health and welfare.

Rural Affairs Minister Lesley Griffiths said Brexit provided the opportunity to develop a system of agricultural support which was 'tailored for Wales'.

“We want to support Welsh farmers to thrive, produce sustainable food and contribute to the climate emergency," she explained.

"The scale of the challenges that confront us means we need to act decisively now so we can ensure rural communities will continue to benefit from our support for years to come.

“We are clear we want to maintain our standards in Wales, and this will be underpinned by a simpler regulatory framework with proportionate enforcement."

The Minister added that she wanted farmers to see the proposals as an 'opportunity rather than an approach that restricts their freedom to farm'.

"We are ready to continue working with farmers to achieve our common goals of a sustainable and resilient sector whilst addressing the pressing challenges we face."

The White Paper is open for consultation until 25 March 2021.