Post-Brexit farm payment changes could ‘devastate’ the Welsh language

An abandoned house reclaimed by nature

The proposed changes to how farmers are supported financially after leaving the EU could destroy the Welsh language at a community level, according to campaigners.

Reforesting Wales and bringing about the end of hill farming could bring the language to an end in many of Wales’ rural communities, according to language campaign group Cymdeithas yr Iaith.

They compared the likey devastation with that faced by communities dependent on coal mining in the 1980s.

“With the emphasis on using Wales’ land from forestry and tourism, it appears that the Government wants to take us to a nightmare scenario where the Welsh language dies with fewer and fewer vibrant communities left in rural areas,” Robat Idris from Cymdeithas yr Iaith said.

The Welsh Government’s consultation ‘Brexit and our land’ closes at midnight tonight (Tuesday 30th October).

‘Devastation’

Ministers are currently consulting on how farm payments will change following Brexit. Among the Welsh Government’s proposals, there are recommendations to:

  • Make payments open to everyone, not just farmers
  • To place more emphasis on using land for forestry and tourism
  • To end the basic payment scheme, which sustains many small farms.

According to the 2011 Census, 40% of agriculture workers spoke Welsh – the highest of any profession in the country.

“We’re very concerned that our devolved government has opened the door to offering a generous subsidy to people, companies and bodies outside of Wales to destroy our country’s rural areas,” Robat Idris said.

“As a group that stood with the miners in the 1980s, we see a major danger that the policies and principles in the consultation document would lead to economic and linguistic devastation similar to the devastation witnessed by those communities that were dependent on the coal industry.

“The agricultural industry is hugely important to rural communities and the Welsh language. The percentage of farm workers who speak Welsh is higher than in any other sector in the country.”

‘Survival’

He said that tens of thousands of other Welsh speakers are directly dependent on the industry to support them.

“The number of communities where Welsh is spoken by the majority are very dependent on farming,” Robat Idris said.

“The vast majority are in the west, mid and northern parts of the country where up to 27% of the population are employed in agriculture.

“These are also areas where the share of farm workers who speak Welsh is over 90% in several places. International evidence shows that communities with a high density of speakers of a minoritised language are essential to that language’s survival.

“That is why we have significant concerns about the changes the Government are proposing.”

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