Welsh farming unions have accused the chancellor of a ‘Brexit betrayal’ after he announced a decision to slash Wales’ agricultural budget in last week’s spending review.
A 2019 Conservative Manifesto promise meant Wales was expecting £337 million in its agricultural and development budget, but Chancellor Rishi Sunak revealed in the spending review on November 25 the budget would be cut by at least £95m for the coming financial year.
It comes after the devolved Governments wrote to Defra Secretary George Eustice urging him to assure the agriculture budget would be maintained.
Farmers Union of Wales Glyn Roberts said the 2019 Conservative manifesto promise had secured many Welsh farmers’ votes and the decision was a ‘complete betrayal’ of farmers.
Direct payments make up about 80 per cent of average Welsh farm incomes and Mr Roberts said the significant impact this cut would have came at a time the industry was concerned about non-tariff barriers, unfair competition from sub-standard imports and the possibility of a no-deal Brexit.
He said: “What has transpired can only be described as a Brexit betrayal which will have far-reaching consequences for family farms, rural businesses and communities.”
NFU Cymru president John Davies said it was a bitter blow at a critical and extremely uncertain time and Welsh farmers had been promised they would ‘not receive a penny less’ in funding as the industry moves away from the Common Agriculture Policy.
He added Welsh agriculture could ill afford to lose money at any time ‘never mind with widescale and unprecedented changes and uncertainty lying ahead’.
He called on Welsh Government to commit to the £242m announced being committed to the 2021 Basic Payment Scheme in Wales and for Welsh Government to spend the Rural Development Programme money in full before the end of the 2023 cut-off.
Mr Davies also called for ‘urgent clarification’ from the governments on how they would resolve the funding shortfall.
He said: “If our fears around future funding are realised, I am afraid it will be bleak news for everyone associated with Welsh agriculture and is clearly not consistent with the Government’s levelling up agenda.”