The Treasury’s decision to grant UK agriculture the same amount of money as it received as a member of the European Union will ‘buy the industry more time’ to build a new agricultural policy, but what will happen after 2020 remains unknown.
Farm chiefs welcomed the Chancellor Philip Hammond’s announcement on Saturday, with the Tenant Farmers Association (TFA) saying it provided farmers and growers with the breathing space as they prepared for life outside the EU, however for some, it has thrown up more questions than answers.
Farm unions in Wales asked for clarification on how the decision will affect those with agreements under the Wales rural development programme.
Others questioned what funding, if any, would be available after 2020 and if so, what would farmers have to do to qualify for it.
FUW president, Glyn Roberts said: “Any agri-environmental agreements which start now would have to run until August 2021 under the current legal framework, raising major questions about funding and legal obligations after the period announced by the Chancellor.”
Mr Roberts said he would be seeking clarity from both the UK and Welsh Governments regarding how the announcement would impact Welsh farmers, particularly those who were already in, or were considering entering into agri-environment agreements.
NFU Cymru president, Stephen James, said despite the longer term uncertainty, in the short-term, it allowed time for the industry and Welsh Government to formulate a domestic agricultural policy which would foster a productive, profitable and progressive sector and deliver jobs, growth and investment for Wales.
TFA national chairman Stephen Wyrill said it was working alongside other rural and environmental organisations to press the Treasury to come forward with an early announcement about new agri-environment agreements, applications for which are due to be submitted within the next few weeks.
“We would have appreciated an extension in the deadlines for applications for agri-environment schemes given the uncertainty surrounding this year’s new applications which will have delayed many from taking forward discussions about schemes they might be interested in developing. However, the fact that we are still able to sign up to new schemes is good news and will be widely appreciated,” said Mr Wyrill.
The CLA described the decision to continue basic payments until 2020 as a ‘confidence booster to businesses considering their future in a difficult agricultural market’.
NFU vice-president Guy Smith added: “A key benefit from this is that it buys a bit more time for detailed discussion about what a post EU British Agriculture Policy will look like.
“The prospect of having to have something ready within just a couple of years could have led to a frenzy of half-baked ideas taking root leading to something not properly thought through or not fit for purpose.”