The Welsh Government’s 25th September statement that it will unilaterally end dedicated Uplands support for farmers during the next CAP period will come as a great disappointment for Wales’ hill farmers.
Throughout the CAP reform process, I have consistently argued that a dedicated Uplands scheme (formally known as LFA payments) should be retained under the European Union’s new ANC definition.
The Welsh Government’s decision not to do so throughout the 2014 – 2020 Rural Development Programme will substantially reduce Upland farm incomes and will critically weaken the viability of many farm businesses. This is potentially devastating to our Upland sheep farming industry which continues to be a source of great national pride. It will also act to weaken the wider rural economy, as so many supply chain businesses will also suffer a hammer blow.
What is especially disappointing is that the Welsh Government has tried to blame EU regulations for its own flawed decisions.
Contrary to what the Welsh Government claims, there is no reason why a dedicated Uplands scheme could not be delivered in Wales. This has been confirmed on a number of occasions by EU officials and is further proven by the majority of other EU states continuing to run such a programme.
It is no wonder that there is so much ill feeling towards the European Union across our country when our own Government is happy to blame it for their own errors, whenever it suits them to do so.
Not having an equivalent scheme here in Wales will put our own farmers at a competitive disadvantage to farmers across the UK and the wider EU and will have far reaching effects into the future.
I am deeply disappointed that the Welsh Labour Government have chosen to let down farmers in this way.
They have strung this decision out for well over a year, and as such it will come as a bitter disappointment to our hill farmers that the door has finally been slammed shut.
This decision will have lasting impacts for many years and could very well result in a significant number of our hill farmers going out of business.