The Welsh Government has announced its two planned post-Brexit schemes for economic resilience and public goods will be merged into one ‘sustainable’ farming programme.
The move was prompted by responses to the Brexit and our Land consultation, which suggested public goods and food production could go hand-in-hand.
The consultation had been criticised by industry leaders, who claimed some form of direct support should be maintained after the UK leaves the EU.
Rural Affairs Minister Lesley Griffiths said: “The case for reform remains and a new approach is needed.
“Reflecting on the consultation responses, I am proposing a new single sustainable farming scheme, allowing us to explore economic, environmental and social opportunities at the same time.
“We will propose an annual payment to farmers in return for the environmental outcomes delivered on their farm – targeted at reversing biodiversity decline, meeting our carbon budgets and hitting our clean air targets.”
Further changes to the policy proposals will be explored in another consultation, set to be announced before the Royal Welsh Show.
NFU Cymru said the Government had gone ‘some way’ in acknowledging the key themes it had raised in its response last year, but it wanted to see an integrated sustainable agriculture programme based on productivity, the environment, and stability.
President John Davies said: “What we cannot support is the phasing out of direct support until there is clear evidence the replacement policy can deliver at least the same level of stability for farming businesses and rural communities.”
Plaid Cymru’s Shadow Rural Affairs Minister Llyr Gruffydd echoed these concerns, saying without the safety net of direct payments, Welsh Government was ‘pushing Welsh farming blindfolded off a cliff’.
“The Welsh Government has no idea what our trading relationship will be with the EU in a matter of months, and neither do they know what level of funding they will receive from Westminster to replace Common Agricultural Policy farm support,” he added.
“Introducing such changes at this unprecedented period of uncertainty is a huge risk. Doing so without at least an element of stability through a basic payment could have devastating consequences.”