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Mark Drakeford accused of patronising farmers over subsidy row

19 Feb 2024 4 minute read
Mark Drakeford picture by Ben Birchall / PA Wire.

Mark Drakeford has been accused of patronising the agriculture sector after warning farmers they could not decide themselves what to do with millions in government subsidies.

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

Speaking at a press conference, the First Minister defended farmers’ rights to legitimate protest but said criminal damage was “not acceptable” and warned protesters about the major impact on other people’s lives.

A consultation is currently underway on the scheme which will require farmers to commit to planting 10% of their land with trees and reserve another 10% as wildlife habitat to access the grant.

Modelling

According to modelling on the potential economic effects of the Sustainable Farming Scheme 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.

Mr Drakeford said: “The bargain cannot be that the public puts its hand into the pocket to put millions of pounds, maybe £300m every year on the table, for farmers to just do whatever farmers think they would like to do with it.”

He added that the public was “entitled to a return on that investment”.

“Top of the bargain is sustainable food production. Of course, we want to see farmers in Wales producing food in ways that are consistent with a climate crisis,” he added.

Out of touch

Responding to the First Minister’s comments, Plaid Cymru spokesperson for Rural Affairs, Llyr Gruffydd MS said: “The First Minister’s comments show yet again how out of touch Labour are with our farmers and rural communities across Wales.

Instead of patronising the sector, the First Minister and his Government should be working with the community to show that their voices and concerns are being listened to.

“This kind of outburst will only deepen the despair felt by so many in the industry, adding to the mental health crisis that’s now emerging in so many farming communities.

“Nobody knows more than farmers that they have a big part to play in helping tackle the climate emergency. That’s why the industry has pledged to achieve net zero by 2040 which is earlier than the Welsh Government’s own target.

“Farmers stand ready to meet the challenge, but that transition has to be a just transition for those working in agriculture in the same way as it has rightly been demanded for other sectors such as the steel industry.

“Plaid Cymru has argued time and time again that investing in our farming industry is an investment for Wales, with a return of £9 for every £1 that goes into the industry. From the economy, to producing food, safeguarding our culture and language, and a key partner in tackling climate change – Labour must realise that Welsh farmers are key to Wales’ success.

“We continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with our rural communities and we will continue to demand that the Labour Welsh Government listens to the sector, and works with it to protect its future and that of the family farm.”

Andrew RT Davies, the leader of the Welsh Conservatives in the Senedd, also condemned the First Minister’s comments.

He said: “This statement shows the First Minister’s naked contempt for our farmers.

“Labour and Plaid Cymru fail to realise that no farmers means no food, as they sacrifice our agricultural communities at the altar of a fanatical green agenda.

“The Sustainable Farming Scheme has been rejected by the farming community and it is high time Labour and Plaid scrap this policy before it does irreversible damage to our rural communities.


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Llyn
Llyn
1 month ago

“The bargain cannot be that the public puts its hand into the pocket to put millions of pounds, maybe £300m every year on the table, for farmers to just do whatever farmers think they would like to do with it.” Can someone tell me how this statement is patronising or wrong. It would be completely ludicrous and for a taxpayer unconscionable that we just give farmers 100s of millions of pounds each year without asking them anything in return.

Alun Gerrard
Alun Gerrard
1 month ago
Reply to  Llyn

What do members of the WG know about farming for God sake? If they knew anything they certainly do not show it do they? The WG works for the people and not themselves. He , Drakeford has not got the decency to talk to the farmers. So much for democracy….another Welsh failure supported by politicians.

No to 20mph
No to 20mph
1 month ago
Reply to  Llyn

You know what they do with the subsidies? Pay their bills, feed their families and grow your food. Most farmers aren’t rich, they’re just scraping by, most I know are still driving the same land rover or pickup they or their dad’s bought in the 80’s! They can’t afford to lose 20% of productivity OR to loose the subsidies, that’s why their protesting. If we lose the ability to import food tomorrow not even ww2 style rationing would save us, with everything going on we need to be more self sufficient, plus is it not greener to grow locally rather… Read more »

Alun Gerrard
Alun Gerrard
1 month ago
Reply to  Llyn

Drakeford should talk to the farmers who are voters.

Jason Born
Jason Born
1 month ago
Reply to  Llyn

Because UK farmers have produced food way below cost of production for decades and propped up with the common agricultural policy money which in the past few years has been linked to environmental schemes that are going way beyond what is ‘sustainable ‘ to the farm as a business. Taking 10% of the production area out for trees and a further 10% for other hair brained schemes will not work. Basically government is putting the family farm out of business, lords and dukes etc still get their pound of flesh with sky high rents and all the scheme monies. Its… Read more »

David luke
David luke
1 month ago
Reply to  Llyn

The subsidy that’s been in place for around 20 years isn’t for farmers.In order to qualify we have been giving a set of rules like assurance schemes etc deadlines for cutting hedges and cross compliance issues were you see your money docked if not carried out.The subsidy made food cheaper for the consumer.Its quite simple really without it public would have paid a lot more ,farmers or any business can’t produce without a profit, therefore tax payers money put cheaper food on tables for all to afford.Subsidy was a way of controlling us as producers.We are being asked to grow… Read more »

TomTom82
TomTom82
1 month ago
Reply to  Llyn

It’s not patronising, farmers always want something for nothing. That being said; the people who know most about farming are…..farmers. Snakeford asking them to do this differently and less productively is madness. Sustainable farming is a gimmick, meaningless. Wales’ Co² emissions are nothing compared to England’s, non-existent compared to China, so why should our people suffer because Drakeford thinks it’ll save the Arctic?

Yuri Nator
Yuri Nator
1 month ago
Reply to  TomTom82

What we have to remember here is we’re talking about politicians who are, basically just like Derek Hatton and the other Militants,. They’re rigidly sticking to a dogma, irrespective of whether it’s actually relevant to the real needs of the people they claim to represent. You’re right to point out that what is driving the stance on this by Welsh Labour is their “net zero” agenda. Rigidly driving that agenda through without having a care that there are occasions where it’ll going result in avoidable and unnecessary consequences is much the same as what was was seen with Derek Hatton… Read more »

Jonathan Stanway
Jonathan Stanway
1 month ago
Reply to  Llyn

Are you happy with your government using your money to reduce food growing farm land, reduce employment and hurt the rural economy? Assuming that the food produced on this land wasn’t thrown away, all that will happen is production will be increased in other countries to fill the gap. All this policy achieves is to increase the amount of food imported into Wales, potentially increase prices and possibly, for every extra tree planted in Wales one is knocked down somewhere else in the world to make space for more crops to replace those no longer grown in Wales. It makes… Read more »

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 month ago

Shouldn’t he just get his coat and bu**er off, the words of a lifelong academic…

My money is still on the riderless horse…ghost riders in the sky…RIP Stan Jones

No to 20mph
No to 20mph
1 month ago
Reply to  Mab Meirion

Yes, I thought he handed in his resignation?
Get lost already!
Party for the working class my a-.

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 month ago
Reply to  Mab Meirion

In light of Defra’s withheld death sentence for our hill farmers can we stop giving Drakeford and his Party any deference whatsoever…

Fi yn unig
Fi yn unig
1 month ago

RT, despite being a farmer himself, fails to point out that his party is throwing farmers under their own tractors with giveaway undercutting deals to Australia. Perhaps he’d like to explain that to them before he criticises anyone else.

hdavies15
hdavies15
1 month ago
Reply to  Fi yn unig

Both of our big Unionist parties in Wales are guilty of ignoring the need for a strong native agricultural sector and its related supply chain, and indeed the surrounding rural communities. Instead we get fantasy stuff from Labour with its arbitrary rules on land use and other constraints, while the Tories rush off looking for bragging rights about their post Brexit cluster of shabby trade deals that do little other than undermine the efforts of farmers here.

Makes one wonder whether it’s a “cunning plan” to drive a 2 pronged attack aimed at clearing the countryside for redevelopment/industrialisation.

Richard
Richard
1 month ago

Mark can at times give the proffesorial impression of the academic lecturer and even occasionaly talking down to folk – but patronising – certainly not.

His reseach focused approach mixed with an obessive trust in evidenced based outcomes is to be applauded as it certainly is lacking in the modus operandi of ARTD & co.

We are now sadly seeing Welsh Labour leadership moving back towards the safe ground of affiliate union and party influence and interests.

Robert Clarke
Robert Clarke
1 month ago

How about
He and the rest of the unqualified idiots that spend some time in the place they call the Senedd
Get paid when they actually get a priority service viable for use
They would all be at food banks and might learn something about life
They all should be made to work on farms for a month.
Dictatorship has come to Wales.

Ken warnes
Ken warnes
1 month ago

I think the farmers should do more for the wildlife and environment but come labour 20% no chance you would not give up 20% of your garden for 1% council tax cut same thing.
I do think all farms should hedge and tree all fields boundaries with help of the tree trust etc and small grant each
Helps wildlife and farm animals from bad weather and the environment and that should be good for the grants but only get them when work started 10% and plans are on show.

Glen
Glen
1 month ago

It’s supermarkets that are being subsidised not farmers.
In the 1960’s the average family spent 30% of their total weekly income on food, today it is less than 10%.

The stark choice for people is cheap food or the environment.

David luke
David luke
1 month ago
Reply to  Glen

Food prices to high at that point,a lot of people couldn’t afford to buy.So the powers that be came up with the idea to bring in subsidy.Now farmers had to tick boxes in order to claim and tax payers paid for the poor ,a win win situation.

No to 20mph
No to 20mph
1 month ago

And importing food is going to be greener than producing locally, is it? Because that’s what it’ll come to when our farmers go bust. We already have to import due to not enough productive farmland but let’s plant trees over it. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine should have been a wakeup call for food security. All to save a fraction of the 0.9% that the whole UK puts out in global emissions. Meanwhile China and India are building thousands of new coal power stations. We’re being taken for fools and sold down the river. Not just farmers and farm hands going… Read more »

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 month ago

Defra hides the truth about the disaster in store for hill farmers …did Drakeford know ?

Christine Jones
Christine Jones
1 month ago

Labour is clueless when it comes to agricultural policy. Even worse, they really don’t care about life outside the urban and post-industrial areas. Our rural landscape will be prostituted in the years ahead to entice get-rich-quick, so called ‘green’ initiatives. Our farmers will lose their land, in part or whole, whilst London and Jersey-based companies will make a killing through wind farms and tree planting schemes. This will accelerate when Vaughan Gething becomes First Minister. Shameful!

Dafydd
Dafydd
1 month ago

Wildlife in our countryside has seen a massive decline in the last 40 years, coinciding with agricultural intensification, encouraged by subsidy, the need to pay off bank debt … and all against the backdrop of a massive increase in power of the super markets, sqeezing farmers harder and harder to enhance their profits. In other words, outside interests have dictated down to us, wrecking well established sustainable farming systems, damaging the human and ecological fabric of Wales massively along the way. Whatever side of the fence you sit on, the future has got to be different. We have to ask… Read more »

KeepItReal
KeepItReal
1 month ago

Having personally witnessed the fleet of new/near new tractors storming around Newtown in their ‘protest’ recently it wouldn’t appear that any of them are struggling financially to be honest.

Peter
Peter
1 month ago

The people of Wales still don’t understand that Mr Drakeford a Latin graduate understands more about farming than those thatbwork in the fields every day.

RS Waterstone
RS Waterstone
1 month ago

Drakeford is quite right.

David luke
David luke
1 month ago
Reply to  RS Waterstone

I think he said,can’t expect taxpayer to put there hands in there pocket and give subsidy out to farmers ,for them to say how it is distributed.Well we don’t need subsidy ,we never asked for it.It was brought out for the poor who couldn’t afford to buy food.Tax payers pay us subsidy to make it cheaper,for all to afford.The last 20 or so years we as farmers have had to put up with beurocracy set about as a result.If we are good and tick all there boxes we can claim full amount.The best thing that could happen is to do… Read more »

Vapper
Vapper
1 month ago

Typical Mark Drakeford condescending response. You must remember that he always knows best and if he doesn’t he’ll refer to his nameless experts, who are always right! He has little idea about the reality of life in rural Wales and cares little about the farming community.

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