The Welsh Government is being pressed to broaden the support mechanisms available to Welsh farmers under the new Wales Rural Development Plan.
Speaking in the Senedd, Plaid Cymru’s Shadow Minister for Rural Affairs, Llyr Gruffydd stressed that the higher investment threshold of the Sustainable Production Grant Scheme was beyond the reach of many farmers – with just 12 businesses having supported it in its first round.
He said the current investment opportunities for farmers were far too limited and called for a Small Grants Scheme to ensure that all farmers could benefit from the RDP.
As EU rules did not prohibit the introduction of smaller grants – as previously contended – the Welsh Government should introduce such a scheme without delay.
“The lack of progress with the roll-out of schemes under the RDP to further the development of the farming industry is frustrating to say the least. We are now two years into the new budgetary period for this RDP,” said Mr Gruffydd.
“It now appears that very low numbers of Welsh farmers will be supported by the Sustainable Production Grant, with only a dozen businesses receiving support following the first expression of interest window.
“The scheme holds a minimum investment threshold of £16,000 for prospective applications, which I fear is beyond the reach of many Welsh farmers.
“The Welsh Government previously suggested that EU rules prohibited the introduction of a grants scheme with a lower investment threshold, but I have received clarification from the European Commission that there are no specific EU rules on the minimum and maximum thresholds for investment support provided under the Welsh RDP.
“The decision is therefore fully in the hands of the Welsh Government, so I urge it to waste no more time in introducing a Small Grants Scheme - similar to that in Scotland - to enable more farmers to make use of the latest technologies and equipment.
“Given that every farmer in Wales has contributed to the RDP, it is only right that they all have the opportunity to benefit from the support that it can offer.”