A Welsh minister is relying on “hollow” promises from the UK Government as plans are developed for the new Sustainable Farming Scheme, according to an MS.
Llyr Gruffydd has warned Lesley Griffiths, the Welsh Minister for Rural Affairs, that a Tory pledge that Wales would not be a penny worse off for leaving the European Union “isn’t worth the paper it’s written on”.
He also challenged the Minister to explain how the proposed Sustainable Farming Scheme, which is due to be rolled out from 2025, will be paid for if the Conservative government in Westminster doesn’t replace Wales’ EU funding in full.
Mr Gruffydd, who is Plaid Cymru’s Shadow Minister for Rural Affairs, pointed to figures that showed that farmers in Wales have already been shortchanged to the tune of £95 million in the 2021-2022 financial year. The funding cut was described as a “Brexit betrayal” by the farming unions when implemented by the then Chancellor Rishi Sunak. It saw the Welsh farming budget shrink from £337m to £242m – a cut of around 28%.
Llyr Gruffydd, who represents the North Wales Region in the Senedd, said: “It’s concerning to hear that the Welsh Government Minister for Rural Affairs is pinning her plans for the Sustainable Farming Scheme on funding that Wales has absolutely no guarantee of receiving.
“As the Minister knows, farmers had a reliable source of income through the Common Agriculture Policy from the EU. But having left the EU, that income stream is coming to an end.
“The Conservative government in Westminster originally promised that leaving the EU would not lead to reduced funding for farming and rural areas in Wales. However, this pledge isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.
“The UK Government has already betrayed Welsh farmers once, what makes the Minister think it won’t happen again?
“Experience tells us that the promises they make to farmers on funding are completely hollow.
“Building a whole new funding support scheme for Welsh agriculture on the back of a broken promise could have serious consequences. What happens if the funding is cut once again? Will the Minister have to drastically scale back the scheme? Will it mean reduced payments for farmers?
“Rural Wales needs a cast-iron guarantee that it won’t be punished for leaving the EU. If the UK Government once again lets Welsh farmers down, will she pledge to plug the funding gap from Welsh Government budgets?
“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.”