Plaid Cymru’s Shadow Rural Affairs Minister, Llyr Gruffydd, has accused the administration of putting Rural Development Programme funding beyond the reach of most Welsh farmers and called for a scheme that gives access to small scale grants that can help improve farm efficiency.
His call comes after Food and Farming Deputy Minister, Rebecca Evans, suggested the government had no intention of delivering low level support through the RDP, but to focus only on larger scale strategic projects.
Speaking in the Assembly, Mr Gruffydd said:“Before the summer the Government announced new RDP schemes – one of which is the Sustainable Production Grant within which projects have to cost at least £40,000 to qualify for grant support of up to 40 per cent.
“That will suit some farmers who require investment at that level and who can afford it in these difficult times.
“But many more farmers need smaller scale grants of a few thousand pounds to make more affordable but still essential improvements to their farm efficiency.
“New stock handling equipment for example could greatly improve the efficiency of some farms, but when you have to spend £40,000 to qualify for support it is no good,” he added.
“When the Welsh Government took money out of the pockets of Welsh farmers through its 15 per cent transfer from CAP Pillar 1 we were all led to believe that this kind of support would be available.
“The Government must get a move on and launch such a programme that will see direct on-farm investment at a level that more Welsh farmers can access.
“Without such a scheme many farmers will effectively be excluded from accessing the grant support they need.”
In her response the Deputy Minister said the RDP was a seven year programme and that there was no intention to introduce such a scheme although the Government might want to consider it at a later date.
Mr Gruffydd said: “This apathetic attitude is unacceptable. The Government must understand that while big ticket investment projects will help some farmers this will not be within the reach of most – particularly in these difficult times.
“Surely, in a near £1bn budget, there is scope to provide support for low level funding that can still have a hugely positive effect on farm resilience and efficiency.”