Conservatives have dismissed claims of a “Brexit betrayal” by Welsh farmers and has called on them to “withdraw their inaccurate claims immediately.”
Janet Finch-Saunders MS, the Shadow Minister for Climate Change, Energy and Rural Affairs, responded to claims by the Farmers’ Union of Wales who said the Welsh agriculture budget was being slashed.
She pushed back at the accusations of broken agricultural promises, accusing the Welsh Government of “pulling the wool over the Farmers Unions eyes”.
The FUW said the Welsh agriculture budget is being cut by £95 million and that this breaks the promise they were made in the Conservative election manifesto that they wouldn’t lose out on any funding after Brexit.
The union said that it expected Wales’ agricultural and rural development budget to be in the region of £337 million, but that the 2021-2022 budget will now be £242 million, which equates to a cut of around 28 per cent.
FUW President Glyn Roberts says he wrote to Secretary of State for Wales Simon Hart two weeks ago asking him to provide assurances that the budget had been maintained.
But the claims about the budget cut have angered Janet Finch-Saunders, who is the Member of the Senedd for the Aberconwy constituency.
She said: “The claims made of a ‘Brexit betrayal’ over the Welsh agriculture budget and supposed cuts are just plain wrong.
“Let me be clear; the UK Government committed to maintain the level of funding to farmers in Wales and between their funding and the tapering off of EU funds this is exactly what they are doing. Anyone that says anything different is spouting nonsense.
“Those who are suggesting that this is not the case must withdraw their inaccurate claims immediately.”
David TC Davies, Conservative MP for Monmouth, and Parliamentary Under Secretary of State in the UK Government, also weighed in on the matter.
He told the FUW: “Slash funding? Wales Government was spending 337million on farming & continues to get 337million (because of money still being paid out by the EU) WG will also gets an additional 1.3billion to spend on anything they want. Ask the Welsh Government to promote Welsh wool not pull it over your eyes!”
However, FUW President Glyn Roberts said that the decision to slash the budget was a “complete betrayal of the farmers” who have kept producing food and feeding the nation throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
“It adds to the extreme anger already felt following the UK government’s decision to oppose a legislative ‘red line’ in the Agriculture Bill that would have prevented the importation of low quality food in future trade deals,” he said.
“The significant impacts such a cut in funding will have on Welsh farms, agricultural businesses and rural communities are clear, and these will come at a time when the industry is already anticipating major problems due to non-tariff barriers, unfair competition from sub-standard imports and the possibility of massive EU tariff barriers in the event of a no-deal Brexit”.
The FUW also says there is a need to ensure a UK-EU trade deal is in place at the end of the EU withdrawal period and urgently address major non-tariff barriers and other issues.
Mr Roberts added: “Farmers, businesses and rural constituents were promised an ‘oven-ready deal’, minimum trade friction and that the agricultural budget would be maintained.
“While the FUW was sceptical about such promises, many accepted them in good faith. What has transpired can only be described as a Brexit betrayal that will have far-reaching consequences for family farms, rural businesses and communities,”
Rebecca Evans, Wales Finance Minister, accused the chancellor of “broken promises” on the budget.
She said: “If you’re looking for a serious failure of management of funding, and if you’re looking for a betrayal of the farming industry, I think that you can find it right there.”