The Welsh Government has yielded to industry pressure on direct payments, promising to keep the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) for a year longer than planned.
Rural Affairs Secretary Lesley Griffiths made the announcement on the opening day of the Welsh Winter Fair.
Speaking at the Hybu Cig Cymru (HCC) breakfast, Ms Griffiths explained she wanted to ‘provide reassurance to the industry’ and ‘give farmers more time to prepare’ for changes to farm support post-Brexit.
The concession comes shortly after NFU Cymru and the Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) launched their first ever joint campaign to persuade the Government to keep some sort of direct payment after the UK leaves the EU.
Longer term, however, the plan is still to move to a Public Goods Scheme and an Economic Resilience Scheme.
“We will continue to support farmers post-Brexit, but in a smarter way,” the Cabinet Secretary said.
“Maintaining the status quo is not an option and we now have the opportunity to design a new, better system of farm support. The BPS is not linked to outcomes, productivity, farmer effort or need.
“I realise this signals big change for the sector at an uncertain time. The transition period is vitally important and is why I am today announcing BPS will remain unchanged for a further year in 2020 to provide certainty and help farmers transition smoothly to a new Land Management Programme.
“This extension will ensure farmers have enough time to prepare and adapt to this new approach.”
Both Welsh farming unions welcomed the announcement, but expressed concerns about the proposed post-Brexit schemes.
FUW president Glyn Roberts said: “By keeping BPS until 2020, our farmers have a bit of stability. However, I hope by the new year, the Welsh Government will have taken account of the thousands of responses to the consultation, all of which highlight concerns about the impact of the WG plans, including the phase out of direct payments.”
John Davies, president of NFU Cymru, said he was pleased the Cabinet Secretary had listened to the views of industry.
“However, we are clear any replacement scheme(s) must deliver at least the same level of stability for farming businesses, the food supply chain and rural communities that the BPS currently delivers,” he added.
Last month, Ms Griffiths was forced to explain the Welsh Government’s position in the Senedd after she told Farmers Guardian she would push on with plans to abolish direct payments even if a majority of respondents to the future farm support consultation requested they were kept.
At the Welsh Winter Fair, the Cabinet Secretary also announced more than 85 per cent of farmers’ BPS 2018 claims will be paid on Monday, December 3 – including nearly 1,000 who applied for the loan scheme.
Farmers who have their BPS claims for 2018 still to be validated for payment are urged to apply before November 30 for the opt-in loan scheme, which was announced in response to the spell of hot, dry weather this summer.