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First Minister blames Brexit for situation faced by Welsh farmers

20 Feb 2024 5 minute read
Andrew RT Davies by Senedd Cymru Welsh Parliament

Emily Price

The First Minister has said famers in Wales would be in a “very different position” if they hadn’t taken the advice of Andrew RT Davies and voted for Brexit.

The fiery exchange took place during First Minister’s Questions on Tuesday (February 20) when the leader of the Tory Senedd group pressed Mark Drakeford on planned Welsh Government reforms.

This week, the outgoing First Minister was accused of patronising the agriculture sector after warning farmers they could not decide themselves what to do with millions in government subsidies.

The leader of the Welsh Conservatives in the Senedd accused the First Minister of showing “naked contempt” for farmers.

Proposals

His comments came after a demonstration in Powys on Sunday as farmers vented their frustration at the Welsh Government’s proposals for its Sustainable Farming Scheme (SFS).

A consultation is currently underway on the new land management plan which will take the place of the Common Agricultural Policy.

It will use public money to help farmers produce food sustainably, tackle the climate and nature emergencies and restore ecosystems.

The Welsh Conservatives say the development of the scheme has been “riddled with problems” from its inception.

It will require farmers to commit to planting 10% of their land with trees and reserve another 10% as wildlife habitat to access the grant.

Farmers say this would never be practical whilst running a farm business.

The Welsh Conservatives have warned the scheme will “devalue farms, cost jobs and devastate the ability to deliver food”.

The Welsh Government says the SFS will ensure safe food production systems, protect the environment and address the climate crisis.

Food security

Quizzing the First Minister in the Senedd, Mr Davies said: “It is difficult for any reasonable person to come to the conclusion that the SFS, as currently constructed, will deliver that sustainable farming offer from the Welsh Government or future Welsh Governments.

“So, I ask you again to confirm that food security is a vital part of the proposals and that you will make sure that food security has that equal weighting with the environmental gains that, ultimately, we all want to see, and that there will be a rethink on the 10 per cent compulsory tree planting cover that is a demand of the current proposals that are on the table.”

Mr Drakeford hit back saying farmers in Wales would be in a different position if they hadn’t taken the advice of the Tory Senedd group leader.

He said: “I think it’s important that I remind the leader of the opposition why we are in the position that we are in, it’s because farmers in Wales took his advice and voted to leave the European Union.”

A row broke out in the Chamber and Mr Davies could be seen pointing at the First Minister saying: “That’s rubbish, that’s rubbish.”

Funds

Mr Drakeford replied: “Well, there we are. Believe me, we are in the position that we are in today because we have taken back control of farming support in Wales, as we were obliged to do.

“If farmers in Wales were still able to have access to the funds that were available through the European Union, they would be in a very different position than they are having heard and followed his advice. I’ve answered many of his questions already this afternoon, I won’t go over that again.

“We were determined to offer farmers the first chance in Wales to grow the trees that we will need, because we will need thousands and thousands more trees in Wales in an era of climate change.

“We’re committed to doing that and we’re committed to offering farmers the first chance to do so. Where it is not possible, where, because of the topography of the land or other considerations, it isn’t possible to reach 10 per cent, the Minister has already set out proposals so that farmers wouldn’t be expected to reach that.

“Where farmers can, where it is reasonable to ask them, then, to expect farmers to make a contribution to mitigating climate change, they will be rewarded for doing so in the sustainable farming scheme.”

Following FMQ’s, TV personality Jeremy Clarkson said Mr Drakeford’s defence of Welsh Government farming proposals “make no sense”.

In a post on X, he said: “The defence mounted by Mr Drakeford over his farming policy makes no sense. Like him I’m not a farmer but try to learn about it by listening to people who are. He should do the same.

“I look at him and plainly he’s a man who likes a pie. And you don’t get those from trees.”

According to modelling on the potential economic effects of the SFS published alongside the consultation ,there could be a reduction in farm business income of up to £199 million, a reduction in farm output of £125 million and 122,000 fewer livestock units.

In addition an 11% decline in on-farm labour requirements have been projected.


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Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 month ago

Two with one shot there Mr Drakeford…how long has your lot been in charge ?

Evan Aled Bayton
Evan Aled Bayton
1 month ago

The First Minister is correct. That said even if Brexit had not happened long term subsidy of agriculture would still have to be phased out. The whole process has been too quick and it would have been better to phase out the subsidies over say seven years while negotiating a programme of rewilding on appropriate land. The Welsh Government approach to re afforestation is bizarre. On the one hand the possibility of Carbon credits leading to extensive afforestation in rural areas is likely to obliterate Welsh speaking rural communities on the other Swansea and I am sure other locations has… Read more »

Jeff
Jeff
1 month ago

Yeah, ARTD. He basically pushed for a vote that defunded us greatly and lowered our standards but he still thinks it was a great idea.

And Mr Clarkson? Really? Mr Punchy let out of the farm to dribble at something his chums in the press sent him out to protest against? The one that let loose that absolute vile tirade on a woman? That is your support?
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2024/feb/20/defra-officials-buried-analysis-dire-financial-prospects-hill-farmers-brexit-faming-payments-scheme

Leigh Richards
Leigh Richards
1 month ago

Mark Drakeford is correct on this matter. And the sad irony is that farmers in Wales – and the rest of the UK – are now suffering the consequences of the Brexit many of them voted for (egged on by the likes of the shameless RT Davies of course).

Gaynor
Gaynor
1 month ago
Reply to  Leigh Richards

People who seem ignorant of farming all cite the farming community voting for brexit. When many in the sector voted agai stthe Big B. Drakeford is a prime example here. Where is the evidence?. Fact is turnout for brexit vote was high as it was the alienated urban post industrislised vote that swung it. The rural vote in Wales is negligible in the overall picture. Nation cymru quoting a Clarkson twitter . God help. Must be somebody more relative to Welsh agri with something worthwhile to say.

John Davis
John Davis
1 month ago
Reply to  Gaynor

Polling taken soon after the referendum suggests that the figure for the farming vote was 54% in favour of Brexit.

CapM
CapM
1 month ago
Reply to  Leigh Richards

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S074301671930436X The above article’s findings suggest that for Cymru the Leave vote amongst Welsh farmers was only 0.1 percentage point higher than than of the general Leave vote in Cymru. The responsibility for Brexit extends beyond farmers. I doubt if Mark Drakeford or the rest of team Labour in Wales really have a grasp of the realities of what they’re proposing never mind the consequences. If the legislation comes anywhere near to matching the proposals in the consultation document then regardless of anything else farmers will have to cut down on the hours they sleep in order to comply with… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by CapM
Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 month ago
Reply to  CapM

If only you could get this Right to Roam mob to volunteer once in a while, take a course in dry stone walling and fence-post renewal…

Anything will serve our purpose more than see politicians poking sticks in the ground and wandering round like the pied piper…

Barry Pandy
Barry Pandy
1 month ago
Reply to  Mab Meirion

“Right to Roam mob”. Really?

Well what about the farmers: the right to moan mob.

Why vote
Why vote
1 month ago

There is only one party responsible for the problem we find ourselves in at the moment, the use of brexit as an argument is demeaning to Wales as a whole. Its like saying the Roman invasion in wales 2000 years ago is the main cause of all our ills. If you wish to remain in power next year then start doing your jobs in the senedd represent the people and stop listening to pressure groups passing laws against the community and then exercising them with all vigour. Try not to forget you will be asking the same people for their… Read more »

Paul ap Garth
Paul ap Garth
1 month ago
Reply to  Why vote

Brexit is relevant. Brexit has torn up the old subsidies scheme.
Westminster has a role too. It was Westminster that decided 1) not to continue with CAP level of funding. 2) deciding how much money they spend on subsidies in England, and therefore, how much Wales gets through match funding.
Welsh Gov is responsible for policy within the budgetary restrictions.

Welsh Government only spends money that Westminster gives, When they are cutting Wales has to cut to live within the budget.

Andrew
Andrew
1 month ago

What an ignorant old fool.

cablestreet
cablestreet
1 month ago
Reply to  Andrew

A bit desperate, ARTD? Even Mark Drakeford doesn’t resort to calling you names on here!

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
1 month ago

Sadly if Welsh Labour’s leadership in London actually campaigned more vocally for the positive of being a member of the European Union rather than sit on the fence as Jeremy Corbyn did allowing Ukip & Leave to control the narrative we’d still be part of a 500 million marketplace. Have the freedom to live and work in Europe. Those medical professionals would still be working in our Welsh NHS rather than back in Europe or in countries more friendly. And Wales would still be receiving £350 million per annum from the EU in Structural Funding not the pittance wrapped up… Read more »

Paul ap Garth
Paul ap Garth
1 month ago
Reply to  Y Cymro

Brexit is Tories policy. Cameron called a referendum because he was fearful of losing voters to UKIP. It Was Cameron who refused to put thresholds into the referendum act. It was Cameron. It was May who actually decided that leaving the EU meant also leaving the Single Market (and everything else with Europe in the name e.g. europol).

Rob
Rob
1 month ago

The effects of Brexit will be felt for a long time to come. It’s a shame brexiteers can’t accept any responsibility for their decisions.

Ernest
Ernest
1 month ago

Mr Drakeford is talking rubbish and trying to deflect from his ridiculous decisions, why then are the farmers in most of Europe also protesting ? because the EU is cutting subsidies and drowning their farmers in regulations so Wales would be in the exactly the same position if we’d stayed in the EU.

Rob
Rob
1 month ago

Not all farmers supported Brexit. Liz Webster for example.

Mark
Mark
1 month ago

Drakeford’s statement is arrogant and illogical. Arrogant to blame the Welsh population for his own incompetence. The Brexit vote gave him the opportunity to design a subsidy programme that was fit for Wales, but apparently it is the fault of the Welsh population that he has failed to do so. Illogical to suggest remaining in the EU would have made the farmers happy. Recently I have read articles about farmers protesting in Czechia, France, Netherlands, Poland, Greece, Romania, Belgium, Germany and Italy – EU farmers are united in their displeasure at a raft of EU policies. Illogical to stay in power while… Read more »

Welshman28
Welshman28
1 month ago

I see that the EU land of plenty according to many is treating their farmers like dirt. Is Drakeford taking lessons from them ? But at home what a total insult to our farmers they get a reply from the so called First Minister in such bad vocal way . Confirms we live in Wales under a dictatorship

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