NFU Cymru presented the Welsh Government’s second consultation on how it would like to fund farmers post-Brexit at Welshpool Livestock market on Monday. It is proposed that after a transitional period of an unknown number of years, BPS and Glastir will be replaced by a Sustainable Farming Scheme. Each farm would have a ‘Farm Sustainability Review’ to produce a ‘Farm Sustainability Plan’. This would involve a very detailed online ‘Expression of Interest’ followed by a visit to your farm by an advisor. The plan would be made up of producing ‘outcomes’ not rewarded by the market i.e. environmental works and a business support element focusing on advice, capital investment like the ‘Sustainable Production Grant’ and skills development.

There would only be funding for projects which exceed the rules and legislation already in place. Once a plan is drawn up and a contract agreed for a given amount of time, there would be periodic inspections and self-auditing i.e. record keeping. Each farm would then receive a ‘Sustainable Farming Payment’.

It is pleasing that Welsh Government is aware that there is a case for supporting farmers, but this scheme appears to me to be very complicated and expensive. The payment would not be guaranteed to all. It would appear to involve expense by farmers before any payment is made. The sustainable farming payment would be for the delivery of outcomes which would have expense and business support scheme projects, like the Sustainability Production Grant, involve farmers more than match funding construction projects. I am not convinced that there would be enough income to provide stability to the agricultural industry in Wales in a climate where governments want cheap food for the consumer and powerful supermarkets, competing on price, put continuous pressure on primary producers. If different countries in the UK have different schemes, Welsh farmers could be severely disadvantaged.

It is disappointing that the consultation has not been postponed in the light of the uncertainty of Brexit, but it is important that all farmers and those who work in agricultural-related industries understand and reply to this consultation by October 30. You can find the full 146-page consultation on the Welsh Government web page or go to the NFU Cymru website to read an overview of the consultation then fill in a template to create your own tailored reply to send to Welsh Government. You can respond directly to Welsh Government. Please also lobby your Assembly Members.