The First Minister of Wales, Mark Drakeford, has said his Government will be ‘sensitive’ to coronavirus issues faced by farmers when setting a Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) phaseout timetable.
But he also warned Welsh farmers could not expect the scheme to be extended indefinitely, because he did not want to ‘lose momentum’ in pushing forward the new Sustainable Farming Scheme.
Under the terms of the UK Agriculture Bill, Welsh Ministers have the power to keep the current Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) arrangements until 2024.
NFU Cymru president John Davies challenged Mr Drakeford on whether he intended to make use of these powers, given the problems thrown up by the pandemic, at one of the union’s Royal Welsh Show seminars.
Mr Drakeford said: “We will take into account the coronavirus experience when considering the timing issue, but there is more than one thing in the balance.
“You do not want to overload people who have had to deal with the overwhelming experience of coronavirus with another set of rapid changes. I take that point and we will work in that way.
“On the other hand, when you are moving to a new system, there is a bit of a sense of needing to get on with it. Everything is at a standstill and people are waiting.
“You do not want to drag it out longer than is necessary, otherwise we lose momentum, so investment decisions and things people will want to put in place become delayed as well.”
Welsh Government has been unable to produce its own Agriculture Bill because of the pandemic, but Mr Drakeford said he was working with Rural Affairs Minister Lesley Griffiths to get a White Paper out before the next Senedd election in May 2021.
He hopes this will allow any new Government to take forward the plans as soon as possible in the next term.