The Tories and Labour are both planning to take payments away from farmers and undermine UK agriculture’s stability, says Liz Saville Roberts, leader of the Plaid Cymru Westminster Group.
Brexit poses the greatest existential threat of our generation to the agricultural sector as a whole and to upland family farms in particular.
We will be leaving the Common Agricultural Policy come March 2019. The Labour Government in Wales has responded by following Michael Gove in taking away farmers’ direct payments.
It’s a huge concern that the flagship Labour policy paper, Brexit and Our Land, proposes no element of direct support for Wales’ farmers.
All the while, under proposals by the European Commission - Welsh farmers’ principal competitors in the EU27 - will continue to take over 70 per cent of CAP support as direct payments.
This diverging support for farmers will create an uneven playing field for Wales, potentially further disadvantaging the industry in what will already be extremely challenging times in the years to come.
While the Labour Government in Wales is proposing the phased withdrawal of basic payments from 2021, the Scottish Government has promised that they will continue to 2023, with a new domestic policy in place from 2024.
Northern Ireland will seek to maintain the status quo up to 2021 before consulting on a new policy.
A Plaid Cymru government would ensure that all farmers can receive a basic income. This direct payment could be linked to achieving wider welfare, environmental and other standards with higher levels of achievement attracting a higher level of payment.
There is no more uncertain time than post-Brexit, and farmers will need stability to plan for the turbulent times ahead. The Political Declaration the Prime Minister is asking MPs to sign off in a week and a half’s time poses nothing but questions.
The Prime Minister will claim to mitigate the worst of Brexit using her deal. But the Chancellor and even the former Brexit Secretary have both admitted that the deal is worse than what we have now.
The British Government’s own economic analysis confirms that assertion. That includes the effect it will have on agriculture.
Another major cause for concern is the timetable for introducing these changes and inadequate transition period under the Withdrawal Agreement.
What is proposed for Wales has never been tried before and will require huge resources to plan and implement.
It is questionable whether it is deliverable in the timescale envisaged with first contracts set to be signed by around 2021.
Farmers are not only the stewards of our environment and our landscapes, they are the backbone of the rural economy.
They deserve a Brexit policy that protects their vital contributions to society as a whole - not a Tory Government and Labour Party who are both as bad as one another.
Liz can be found tweeting at @LSRPlaid