Rural affairs minister urged to pause ‘unworkable’ farm payment scheme consultation
Rural Affairs Minister Lesley Griffiths has been urged to pause a consultation for a proposed farm payment scheme after it was branded “unworkable” in its current form.
The Sustainable Farming Scheme will use public money to help farmers produce food sustainably and tackle the climate and nature emergencies and restore ecosystems.
It will replace the Common Agricultural Policy legacy schemes, including the Basic Payment Scheme, from 2025.
A consultation was launched in December calling for feedback on the controversial proposals which have so far received criticism from farmers and wildlife campaigners.
The Welsh Government has been hosting roadshow events across Wales designed to ensure that farmers are able to respond effectively to the proposals.
Last week at the first roadshow event in Welshpool around 1000 of Wales’ farmers met to discuss whether to stage a protest against the new scheme.
Fears have been raised by Shadow Rural Affairs Minister Samuel Kurtz that farmers could begin protesting politicians in Cardiff Bay if there is not a renewed effort to engage with farming unions.
He has written to Ms Griffiths urging the minster to give “serious consideration” to the wellbeing of Welsh farmers and pause the consultation to allow time to make amendments to the scheme.
Mr Kurtz wrote: “Following feedback from attendees of the Welsh Government hosted ‘roadshow’ events, and those hosted by the farming unions, it remains clear that the current proposals do not have the agricultural communities support.
“Given the importance of getting the future support scheme right, I believe continuing with the current consultation of a flawed scheme is a mistake and will lead to serious frustration and resentment from farmers across Wales.
“The cumulative effect of changes to agricultural policy in Wales, from The Water Resources (Control of Agricultural Pollution) (Wales) Regulations (NVZs) to the ending of Glastir contracts, coupled with the errors in the Habitat Wales Scheme and persistence of Bovine TB means that the Welsh sector is under increasing pressure.
“Serious consideration must be also given to the wellbeing of Wales’ farmers and the role that Welsh Government policy plays in this regard.”
Mr Kurtz told Nation.Cymru there is much anger and frustration from famers across Wales who have been forced to deal with a host of policy changes in a short space of time.
He said: “The Sustainable Farming Scheme in its current form does not satisfy Wales’ farmers. I think it would be beneficial in both improving the policy and the relationship between the Welsh Government and Wales’ farming sector if the consultation was paused, changes were made with the assistance of the farming unions and revised plans were brought forward.
“Welsh farmers have had to deal with a host of policy changes in a short space of time. This cumulative effect is having a negative impact on the sector and farmers’ wellbeing; from NVZ regulations, lack of progress on Bovine TB, 10% tree planting and even the school calendar changes which could impact the Royal Welsh Show.
“There is a real sense of frustration and anger in the sector at the moment, therefore I am urging the Welsh Government to pause this consultation and to redouble their efforts to get the scheme right so that it works for Wales’ farmers.”
The final consultation for the scheme will remain open until March 7 and farmers are encouraged to provide feedback.
A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “The Sustainable Farming Scheme aims to secure food production systems, keep farmers farming the land, safeguard the environment, and address the urgent call of the climate and nature emergency.
“We have run an extensive co-design exercise in developing the SFS and we thank everyone who has been involved. The final consultation on the Scheme is open and we encourage everyone to reply with their views by 7 March.
“It includes proposals for common land, and a Stability Payment is intended to support the move from BPS to the Scheme, by providing continuity of support through the Transition Period. BPS is proposed to be phased out by 2029.”
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