The Welsh Government minister responsible for agriculture has strongly defended his decision to cut direct subsidies for farmers by 15%, the maximum permitted under EU rules. Natural Resources and Food Minister Alun Davies told AMs that he's switching the money to funds that help rural businesses.
He said it would have been "irresponsible" not to act when the overall Common Agricultural Policy Budget is shrinking. He argued that rural Wales has to to prepare for further cuts and that means diverting available funds to prepare for the future. £286 million will be transferred by 2020.
I believe that the reduction of the CAP budget for 2014-20 agreed last spring, while regrettable, is the first step in real terms -and perhaps absolute- decline in direct payment support for farming. It is very important that Wales uses the coming period to 2019 to put its farming industry on the best possible footing to face further public funding reductions from 2020.
Income support ... is important for an industry that faces risks from a range of sources but ... cannot be a never-ending subsidy. I believe it also serves to stifle the modernisation and innovation that are crucial for the future competitiveness of our industry in Wales.
– Alun Davies, in a letter to the Assembly Environment Committee
How farm subsidies are calculated will also change, from historic payments, based on production subsidies, to money linked to the size of each farm and the quality of the land. But most alarm has been caused by the cut in direct payments, which is very high in Wales compared with other countries.
Northern Ireland 7%
While there may be promising improvements – any constructive change is severely outweighed by the 15 per cent transfer. This reform leaves Wales at a competitive disadvantage in the market place.
It is a misguided move that hit farmers hard at a time when the industry in Wales is already struggling under Labour management. Far from minimising disruption to farming businesses – this change leaves them in limbo. While Carwyn Jones and Welsh Labour may claim they are making Welsh farming more competitive, in reality, they have hamstrung the industry.
– Shadow Minister for Rural Affairs Antoinette Sandbach AM