Agriculture in our country is facing unprecedented challenges, and our farmers are facing a perfect storm, a combination of financial problems, red tape, falling milk and beef gate prices which collectively could drive parts of the agricultural sector to crisis point. In 2013, farm incomes dropped by 44% in Wales. It has been estimated that a farmer receiving £10,000 in 2013 would see their payment drop by over 20% to £7,879.
A number of different factors pose significant challenges to our agricultural sector:
- A 10% cut to the EU’s overall CAP budget
- The Welsh Government’s decision to reduce the amount of money paid directly to farmers by 15% (by moving money from Pillar 1 to Pillar 2)
- Excessive bureaucracy such as the six day standstill rule on moving animals
- Welsh Government proposals to introduce a crude and inflexible valuation system for bovine TB compensation
- A 20% reduction in the farmgate price of milk
- Substantial drops in the price of lamb and beef
- The exchange rate has fallen by 7%.
Llyr Gruffydd AM/AC, The Party of Wales Shadow Minister for Sustainable Communities, Energy and Food, has put forward a series of practical steps that the Welsh Government can take to improve the situation. He said:
“Farmers are facing a catalogue of challenges that are creating a perfect storm for the agriculture sector in Wales. Some of these factors are beyond the government’s control, such as the particularly poor exchange rate, but many of them are of the Welsh Government’s own making, and they need to be rectified.
“The Welsh Government’s decision to cut the amount of money paid directly to farmers by 15% has created untold concern. Taking nearly a quarter of a billion pounds out of the pockets of farmers at such a financially challenging time is making a bad situation worse. This, on top of the 10% cut to the agriculture budget that the Labour and Tory parties supported at an EU level, will add to this.
“Given the unprecedented challenges facing the industry in Wales the Deputy Minister must now accelerate Government action to cut red tape in the sector. She must allow farmers to get on with the job of farming and give them more flexibility to ensure their businesses endure. This should include scrapping the six day standstill rule which locks up a farm for six days every time an animal is brought on the holding.
“We also need to better support Welsh dairy and meat. Changing procurement rules at an EU level means Wales will be able to do more to encourage people to source local meat and dairy, boosting the industry and keeping prices fair. The Deputy Minister’s decision not to introduce a scheme under the Rural Development Programme to support those farming the more difficult land known as Areas of Natural Constraint is also a blow to the industry – especially when they see other parts of the UK utilising this support.
“The Welsh Government needs to act early. A harsh winter is predicted and a panicked response to severe weather could be avoided by making some key changes now.”