Prime Minister tells Welsh farmers 'we've got your back' during visit to Llandudno

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has told Welsh farmers "we've got your back" and that the Welsh Government's farming funding plans are "absolutely not right".

As he arrived at the Welsh Conservative Party Conference, he stopped to speak to a gathering of those from the rural community who were there to ensure he was "on board" with their fight to protect agriculture.

They urged him to make sure that "money is ring-fenced for farmers and goes to them". The prime minister told the crowd: "I'm really sorry for what you are going through in Wales."

First Minister Mark Drakeford said earlier this week that the Welsh Government is "working with farmers" and that reforms are "unavoidable".

Farmers gathered outside the Welsh Conservatives Party Conference in Llandudno on Friday, 23 February. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

Those in the rural sector fear the proposals for greener farming in Wales will "cost thousands of jobs and destroy incomes". They’re angry that the plans require farmers and landowners to devote 10% of their land to tree planting to qualify for the payouts.

Mr Sunak said: “I've been speaking with lots of farmers over the past few weeks and particularly representatives of both farming unions and including yesterday, we had a good session and I know how angry and frustrated you are at Labour's plans for farming in Wales. 

"It's absolutely not right, the impact it will have on your jobs, your livelihoods, your income and food production in our country is simply wrong and I just want you to know that in Andrew and Sam and the team here are going to hold them to account for it. We are going to do everything we can because we have got your back."

New subsidy schemes are being introduced by both the UK and Welsh governments to replace the grants farmers used to receive when Britain was part of the European Union.

Mr Sunak denies that his government's proposals will result in 1000s of job losses. He says instead they are offering farmers "record amount of grants so that they can get the support they need to buy more equipment and improve automation".

Agriculture isn't the only area the prime minister has aimed at during his whistlestop visit to North Wales. He has slammed Labour's record in Wales during his two-day 'Levelling Up' tour of North Wales, with 20mph, education and the NHS facing criticism.

He said a General Election later this year will give people across the United Kingdom a "clear choice" to decide who they want in power.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak told farmers in Llandudno "we have your back". Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

The prime minister said: "You can see what the reality of Labour in power means here in Wales.

"We've got schoolchildren that are being let down, compared to those across the rest of the United Kingdom, particularly in English schools where we are performing incredibly well.

"The NHS here is in real difficulty with much longer waiting lists and waiting times and more people on waiting lists than in England."

He described the Welsh Government's rollout of the default 20mph speed limit as a "ridiculous attack on motorists" and levelled the same attack on its handling of its plans to make farming greener.

Mr Sunak said: "All of that when you see it together shows that Labour just don't have a plan to govern our country properly. Whereas in contrast our plan is working.

"You have seen today that energy bills are falling, inflation has been halved, mortgage rates are falling and taxes are being cut. Everyone receiving a benefit of our tax cut, £450 for the average worker, that kicked in, in January.

"It shows that if we stick to our plan I can give everyone the piece of mind that there is a brighter future ahead. In contrast Labour as we see here in Wales, would take us back to square one."

Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

Tensions over the farming subsidy scheme have been growing for weeks. First Minister Mark Drakeford's official opening of a new engineering building for education and training in Rhyl was overshadowed by a massive protest on Wednesday.

Mr Drakeford spoke with ITV Wales at Grŵp Llandrillo Menai explaining how the Welsh Government has "changed and adapted the proposals" after hearing "views and advice of farmers". He is also "quite sure" they will change again in the future.

He said: "No farmer has to sign up, it's voluntary, around half the farms in Wales aren't signed up to the current scheme.

"I understand farmers do feel under pressure, including the real tragedy of TB in cattle, I understand the way they feel about the future.

"We aim to bring farmers with us, but there is a bargain. We want to invest in their futures, but the Welsh public that is providing that investment is entitled to a return on that investment.

"Those are the things that the wider Welsh public want to see in their futures."

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