The Welsh Government has unveiled its plans for post-Brexit policy in a landmark consultation document.
Cabinet Secretary Lesley Griffiths launched the consultation, which will close at the end of October, at an upland farm in Powys.
The paper proposes two new schemes, the Economic Resilience Scheme and the Public Goods Scheme, which will be open to all and delivered by Rural Payments Wales (RPW).
The Economic Resilience Scheme will provide targeted support to allow farmers and the wider supply chain to increase their market potential, boost productivity, diversify, improve knowledge exchange, skills and innovation and manage risk.
It will include funding for capital investment in machinery and buildings, but access to the cash will be conditional on a ‘credible business strategy, assessment of viability and potential for return on investment.’
The Public Goods Scheme will be available to farmers tackling problems such as soil degradation and habitat loss, as well as those with an interest in preserving heritage or improving opportunities for recreation in the countryside.
Ms Griffiths said the schemes are ‘made in Wales’ and would work for Welsh farmers and communities, though she issued another plea to her counterparts in Westminster to provide more clarity on future funding.
She added: “Our new programme aims to keep farmers farming on their land and will enable the sector to thrive in a post-Brexit world.”
The Minister was not, however, able to say exactly how the transition from old schemes to new would take place, how they would be audited and monitored or how the Government intended to value public goods.
These details are expected to be consulted upon separately next spring, with a Bill to be published before the end of 2021.
Asked by Farmers Guardian whether there would be any measures to mitigate volatility in future, Ms Griffiths said she would expect them to be UK-wide.
“I have not really looked into that”, she added.
This was a key concern for NFU Cymru president John Davies, who said the consultation appeared to suggest volatility measures were not required.
“It is the firm belief of the union that given the unprecedented weather events of the last year and the impact that has had on the industry, coupled with continued global political instability, the case for maintaining stability measures has never been more compelling,” he added.
Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) president Glyn Roberts also expressed concern about the loss of direct payments, pointing out EU farmers would carry on receiving them and the Scottish Government would continue to recognise topographical and other handicaps.
“We need to make sure Welsh policies do not place our farmers at a disadvantage”, he said.
Ms Griffiths has written a piece for Farmers Guardian about the proposals. You can read it on our Brexit hub HERE.