Welsh Conservatives to bring Senedd motion to protect funding for farmers
The Welsh Conservatives will bring forward a Senedd motion next week calling on the Welsh Government to protect next year’s rural affairs budget.
The move follows a joint plea from Welsh farming and environmental organisations who signed a joint letter to the First Minister calling for budgetary certainty for the rural affairs portfolio ahead of the Welsh Government publishing its draft budget later this month.
The letter has been co-signed by CLA Cymru, Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW), NFU Cymru, National Trust Cymru, RSPB Cymru, Wales YFC, Tenant Farmers’ Association and Welsh Organic Forum.
Serious questions have been raised about Welsh Government support for farmers and the future of the agricultural industry following crisis cuts to protect Wales’ health and rail services amid “unprecedented” financial pressures.
The Welsh Government made a number of in-year budget cuts – which included a £37.5m cut to the Rural Affairs pot – as part of a “reprioritisation” of its budget to address a significant funding shortfall.
The collaborative letter reads: “Whilst we recognise the challenges that Welsh Government must contend with, we highlight that the entire Departmental Rural Affairs Budget of £482 million represents just 2% of the Welsh Government Budget. It is vitally important that as a minimum, this budget is maintained to ensure that our obligations and ambitions in relation to food, nature and climate are achieved.
“During a period of unprecedented change, we are grateful to Welsh Government for the commitment it has shown to farming and our environment through maintaining levels of funding for the Basic Payment Scheme and the Glastir Scheme in recent years.
“We are deeply concerned, however, that rural Wales now faces a loss of £37.5m resulting from the in-year review of budgets confirmed in October 2023, a cut of 7.9% to a budget that has not seen an increase for a decade or more. This at a time when farmers and land managers are being asked to deliver far more for society than at any time previously in an extremely challenging economic landscape.
“As farming and environmental organisations, we are clear that any further cuts to the Departmental Rural Affairs Budget, and within that the funding allocated for the delivery of support that provides stability to rural businesses, alongside measures that underpin environmental delivery, will seriously threaten and undermine our rural communities and our ability to meet our shared aspiration to be global leaders in the production of climate and nature friendly food.”
Commenting ahead of the debate set to take place in the Senedd on Wednesday (December 13), Welsh Conservative Shadow Rural Affairs Minister, Samuel Kurtz MS said: “Farming is the silver thread running through the fabric of Wales’ national identity. Welsh agriculture is not only a vital part of our economy, but it is part of our rich culture and protects both our language and our environmental beauty.
“I’m delighted that the Welsh Conservatives will be holding a Senedd debate to mark the importance of the agriculture sector, whilst calling on the Labour Government to ensure that no cuts will be made to the basic payment scheme budget for 2024.
“Farming needs a friend. That friend to farming is the Welsh Conservatives and we will continue to stand up, day after day, to ensure farming in Wales gets the support it deserves.”
The Welsh Conservatives have warned that the agriculture community in Wales is facing serious mental health issues at a time when farmers are uncertain as to what financial support the Welsh Government is going to provide.
The Welsh Government spokesperson said: “We have been very clear we are facing an extremely challenging financial situation – the toughest since devolution – which means we must make some very difficult decisions as we finalise the draft Budget, which will be published on 19 December.
“We are committed to supporting farmers and rural communities in Wales. This year we have prioritised the BPS 2023 budget, which remains at £238m, and balance payments will be made later this month.
“Glastir 2023 payments are being made and, as this EU-funded scheme draws to a close we have responded to farmers’ calls for an interim scheme by developing Habitat Wales, which has attracted more than 3,200 applications.
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