FRESH uncertainty surrounds the Welsh Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) system after some farmers reacted with shock at discovering they faced far greater reductions in payments this year than anticipated.
The Welsh Government has been forced to remove an online BPS calculator it had introduced last Monday until the confusion was resolved.
It remains unclear whether the problem is an error with the online calculator, or if it reflects a harshness in the Welsh policy which, until this point, few people had been aware of.
In July, Welsh Deputy Food and Farming Minister Rebecca Evans announced Wales would be moving to a single area rate by 2019 ‘in five annual steps’.
The Government is also applying a redistributive payments option to provide a ’softer transition for many’ who would have been hardest hit by the move to a flat rate. Under this option, there will be a top up on the first 54 hectares of each claim.
Under this system, two-thirds of Wales farmers will be better off by 2019, compared with the continuation of SPS.
The 5,463 Welsh farmers who will lose out under the transition had been expecting a gradual transition, giving them time to adapt to their lower payment by 2019.
But some discovered, after inputting their details into the online BPS calculator, that the bulk of their reduction will come in year one.
In some cases, more than 80 per cent of the overall amount they stand to lose by 2019 will disappear this year.
One farmer, who asked not to be named, said: “Like a lot of farmers, we believed it would be in equal stages, but it is front-loaded.
“We have had a terrible year selling our stock and, on top of this, we have this big drop this year.
“It was not explained. I have been speaking to farmers who are devastated by this.”
While neither the Welsh Government nor the farming unions have come up with a clear explanation as to why this is happening, it appears to be down to the introduction of redistributive element at an early stage. For some farmers, this appears to have rendered the staged shift from historic to area payments as less important.
A Welsh Government spokesman said: “We are looking at the detail of the payment model and we are in discussion with stakeholders. In the meantime we have taken the calculator down until we resolve these details.”
A Farmers Union of Wales spokesman added: “We have been working to ensure this error is corrected since the payment calculator was published last week and we hope to see it resolved over the coming days.”
The Welsh Government’s efforts to introduce BPS have been compromised since it was forced to scrap its preferred plans for a regional model following a challenge to the proposed moorland line. This caused a rethink and delayed the decision on a final model.
With mapping difficulties added in, the Government has already indicated its intention to issue part payments, rather than full payments, in the early part of the payment window.
Welsh farmers also face a higher transfer of funds from Pillar One to Pillar Two, 15 per cent, than their UK counterparts and other farmers across the EU.