Agriculture must be properly supported or the Welsh and UK Governments risk doing to famers what Thatcher did to the miners, according to Plaid Cymru.
Llyr Gruffydd, who is his party’s Shadow Minister for rural affairs, has warned that a failure to deliver sufficient funding for the sector at a time of unprecedented challenges will undermine the viability of family farms and shatter the fabric of rural communities across Wales.
During a visit to Maesmochnant Farm in Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant, the North Wales MS pointed towards the ongoing uncertainty on levels of funding for the proposed Sustainable Farming Scheme which will replace the Basic Payment Scheme that has supported the sector for decades.
Mr Gruffydd, who was joined at the NFU Cymru round table meeting by Powys Plaid Cymru councillors Elwyn Vaughan and Bryn Davies, also took aim at the Government’s failure to confirm funding levels for the Habitat Wales Scheme. The scheme is set to bridge the funding gap between the end of Glastir in December 2023 until the anticipated start of the Sustainable Farming Scheme in 2025.
Llyr Gruffydd MS said: “When you look at the multiple pressures that farmers in Wales are facing at the moment it’s easy to understand why they’re getting frustrated with ministers both in London and Cardiff.
“The agriculture sector has seen a 40% inflation increase in costs over recent years without a corresponding increase in farm support. In fact, funding has been falling in real terms leaving many businesses struggling to survive.
“The UK Government has failed to live up to its manifesto promise of ‘not a penny less’ in funding for Wales post-Brexit and the Welsh Government isn’t giving any funding certainty whilst they try to fill a £900m budget black hole.
“All this uncertainty means farms are in a state of stasis not knowing to invest, cut back or give up altogether. Ministers need to realise just how many farmers are on the brink. Unless adequate levels of funding are provided to support the sector to deliver on the additional demands being placed on it by policy makers then the consequences could be dire.
“There’s a real risk that between them the UK and Welsh Governments could do to our rural communities what Thatcher did to our mining communities.
“Farmers stand ready to play their part in tackling the nature and climate emergency, but they cannot deliver today’s priorities using yesterday’s budget. For society to enjoy the public goods it demands either funding has to be increased or ambitions have to be lowered.
“Rural Wales needs a cast-iron guarantee that it won’t be punished for leaving the EU. If Welsh farmers don’t receive the funding they were promised, then the future of many family farms and rural businesses will be put at risk.”