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Minister defends farm subsidy cuts

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.

  • Wales 15%
  • England 12%
  • Scotland 9.5%
  • Northern Ireland 7%
  • Germany 5%
  • France 3%
  • Ireland 0%
  • Italy 0%

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

£23m 'severe weather payments' for farmers

Snow hit Wales in March and April. Credit: Dave Thompson/PA Wire

The Minister for Natural Resources and Food says 2,665 Welsh farmers have now received advanced payments totalling £23m.

Alun Davies says over 3,000 farmers in parts of Gwynedd, Conwy, Denbighshire, Flintshire, Wrexham, Montgomeryshire, Radnor and North Ceredigion will receive the advance payment, of up to 50 per cent of the single farm subsidy, by the end of this month.

Last month the Minister announced that he was bringing forward single farm subsidy payments to help farmers facing cash flow difficulties as a result of the severe weather in March and April this year.

The Welsh Government says it is the only country in the UK to provide early payments to farmers.


Plans for payments to farmers set out

Alun Davies will hold question and answer session at the Royal Welsh show Credit: Joe Giddens/PA

Wales' Minister for Natural Resources and Food will set out plans for payments to farmers today during a visit to the Royal Welsh show. Among plans are the implementation of a 100% cap on payments over €300,000 from the Common Agricultural Policy.

Alun Davies says, 'Broadly speaking the CAP deal reached in Europe is good for Wales and reflects my key negotiating priorities. Now I have to start making decisions on how the system will operate in Wales and ensure that direct payments are used to best effect'

Farm wages law approved by AMs

The Welsh Assembly has voted to regulate farm workers' wages after the UK Government last month ended controls for England and Wales. The legislation was rushed through the Senedd this week under emergency procedures that enabled it to be passed before AMs began their summer recess.

The decision to introduce this Bill with such urgency was not one we took lightly. However, swift and decisive action was necessary to ensure we are able to provide continuous support to our agricultural sector beyond 1 October 2013. By preserving the provisions of the 2012 Agricultural Wages Order in Wales we are providing continuity of a statutory regime that is well-known and respected by the sector; a regime that acknowledges the distinctiveness of Welsh agriculture, supports skill development and encourages new entrants into the industry.

This is a significant moment in the history of our Assembly as for the first time in the history of this body we have used emergency procedures to bring forward a Bill. Agriculture is a fundamental part of Wales’s economy, identity and rural heritage. I am very pleased that we have passed a Bill that will strengthen our agricultural industry and protect our rural communities

– Natural Resources Minister Alun Davies AM

The bill will not become law until the Queen has given Royal Assent. The Assembly Government must first wait to see if the UK Government decides to ask the Supreme Court if the legislation essentially an agricultural measure and so within the Assembly's competence.

If it was seen as employment legislation it could be struck down as being outside the powers granted to the Assembly by Westminster.

Agricultural workers' pay: AMs due to vote on an emergency bill

Changes will affect more than 13,000 farm workers in Wales. Credit: Joe Giddens/PA Wire/Press Association Images

AMs will vote today on an emergency bill which would allow the Welsh Government to have powers over farm workers' pay and conditions in Wales.

It would replace the Agricultural Wages Board (AWB) which was abolished by the UK Government last month - This is the board that regulates farm workers and sets minimum pay levels.

The changes will affect more than 13,000 farm workers in Wales.

Companies visit Moscow in bid to promote Welsh meat

The Welsh meat industry aims to win export orders for its lamb and beef in Moscow Credit: ITV

Welsh red meat companies are in Moscow this week in a bid to win export orders for Welsh lamb and Welsh beef to Russia.

Representatives of the processing companies, led by Welsh red meat promotion agency Hybu Cig Cymru, will also attend a reception for potential customers in the British Embassy.

HCC Chief Executive Gwyn Howells says the three-day mission to Moscow is the culmination of years of negotiation with the Russian authorities, adding: "Russia's economy has grown enormously and with it the demands of its citizens."

A team of Russian inspectors visited Wales in early 2012 to see the conditions that exist both on farms and in processing plants.


Royal Welsh Show £200,000 profit after visitor record

Record numbers basked in the sunshine at the Royal Welsh Showground last summer.

The Royal Welsh Show posted a profit of £209,247 last year, after record visitor figures.

241,099 came through the gates at Llanelwedd, in Powys, over four days in July 2012.

The show has been consistently profitable in recent years, after making a £170,000 loss in a weather-hit 2007.

The Royal Welsh Agricultural Society said its smaller Spring Festival and Winter Fair also both posted profits.

FSA: 'We are not saying there is a problem with lamb'

The advert does show some delicious-looking lamb in a strange setting. We are not saying there is a problem with lamb.

We are simply reminding consumers to check hygiene standards when eating out, and not just the appearance of an establishment, as this could be deceptive.

We trust the intelligence of the public on this one. We don’t think anyone will be put off eating lamb by this advert.

– Food Standards Agency spokesperson
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