THE WELSH Government’s decision to siphon 15% out of direct payments from 2014 and place into rural development activity will see Welsh farmers put at a significant competitive disadvantage compared to farmers in the rest of Europe, NFU Cymru said last week. Reacting to the announcement, NFU Cymru President, Ed Bailey said,
“Farmers across Wales will be deeply disappointed and angered by today’s announcement, this support intended to help farmers cope with the volatility of the marketplace, to deliver food security and to ensure the highest production standards will be slashed in Wales by more than many of our major competitors on UK and EU food markets.
“France will see 3% of funds moved into Pillar 2, Germany 4.5% and Scotland proposes to move 9.5%. With Welsh Government deciding to move the 15% maximum amount of resource allowed by EU rules at the earliest opportunity it will make it far tougher for Welsh farmers to compete in the marketplace against food producers from these countries.
“Whilst the Minister has said that the announcement he has made today will result in an extra £286 million to support rural activity in Wales what he fails to mention is that this money is not new money, it is a redeployment of existing resource that has effectively been taken directly off the bottom line of Welsh agriculture.
“With this money being moved into the Rural Development Programme from 2014 and as of yet no firm plan in place for how Welsh Government intends to spend this resource over the next seven years, there is, to my mind, a real danger that this money could be lost from Welsh agriculture.”
Mr Bailey continues, “We had strongly argued for the Minister to consider a phased approach to pillar transfer, taking only what was needed to fund existing commitments in the early years of the next RDP, increasing the rate when the new Rural Development Programme was fully up and running and when take up of new schemes could be better gauged.
“Now that the Minister has taken this decision, which will be deeply unpopular with the farming industry throughout Wales, he must ensure a damage limitation exercise and ensure that measures are put in place at the earliest opportunity to give all farmers a realistic opportunity to recover it to their farming businesses.”