Welsh farmers will continue to receive the same level of funding in 2021 as they received in 2019 – there is no need for worry about rural spending, says Paul Davies MS, leader of the Welsh Conservatives.
A Happy New Year to all of your readers as we say goodbye to the challenges of 2020 and look forward with optimism to the opportunities of 2021!
During the past few months we have all been preparing for the UK’s final steps towards becoming independent, out of the EU, but a country of Europe nonetheless.
There have been some big issues for us to work through, not least the level of financial support to the sector, and how we will protect food standards which are crucial to our industry.
In the latest UK Government Spending Review, Wales received £240 million to support farmers, land managers and the rural economy, as well as £2 million to support fisheries in Wales.
The funding announced in the Spending Review is on top of the remaining EU funding farmers and land managers across the UK will receive for agri-environment and rural development projects.
I assure you that Welsh farmers will continue to receive the same level of funding in 2021 as they received as the baseline in 2019.
While the amount of remaining EU funding varies across the four nations, the Treasury has adopted a consistent approach, topping up EU receipts with Exchequer funding.
This ensures that the commitment to guarantee the current annual budget is met in each nation.
In a public letter from the Secretary of State for Wales, the Secretary of State for Defra and the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, a pledge was made to guarantee the £337 million of annual funding will remain in place for the lifetime of this Parliament.
As EU funding tapers off, the UK Government will increase its contribution to ensure our commitments are met.
This is good news for Wales and gives certainty to our sector.
Many people have also contacted me about food standards, which are also important here in Wales, and indeed across the UK.
Without exception, all animal products imported into the UK under existing or future free trade agreements from all trading partners, including the EU and others, will have to meet our stringent food safety standards, as they do now.
These standards have been built up over many years and have the trust of the public and the world.
I know the UK Government will not adjust those standards to secure trade deals. The standards will be based on science and decided by the UK alone.
The UK already has the processes in place to protect high standards.
Independent food regulators such as the Food Standards Agency (FSA) will continue to ensure that all food imports are safe and meet the relevant regulations.
All new food products will need to pass the FSA’s risk analysis programme before being placed on the UK market.
I am also pleased that the Trade and Agriculture Commission has been established to advise and inform the UK Government’s trade policies.
This independent advisory board will ensure standards in food production are not undermined in future trade deals and I am delighted that the Commission has now been put on statutory footing.
I also welcome that the Commission is to produce a report on the impact on animal welfare and agriculture of each free trade deal the UK Government signs after the end of the EU transition period.
I am looking forward to what the future might hold outside the EU, and how working together we can continue to develop a thriving agricultural sector, supporting our rural businesses and families.
Paul can be found tweeting at @PaulDaviesPembs