BPS is ‘crucial’ to Welsh farmers – NFU Cymru

NFU Cymru has emphasised that the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) is “crucial” to Welsh farming businesses and has urged the Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs to maintain current levels of funding.

After concerns arising from the apparent funding shortfall for Welsh farming in the UK Comprehensive Spending Review, the union has written to the Minister Lesley Griffiths asking her to make a statement to commit to continue current levels of funding for the BPS, calling the support a “key safety net for Welsh farmers and rural communities”.

The action was prompted by a meeting of NFU Cymru Council, the union’s governing body, where members were unanimous in their views that BPS funding must be protected.

In his letter to the minister, NFU Cymru President John Davies said:

Today the BPS is more important than it has ever been, providing stability and certainty to Welsh farming in the face of dealing with a global pandemic that has caused major disruption to food supply systems.

Whilst farmers and the entire supply chain have shown remarkable resilience in keeping the nation fed throughout the pandemic, the longer-term impact of this pandemic on our economy and food supply chains is, as yet, unknown.

“The BPS has been, and will continue to be, crucial if Welsh farmers are to remain able to secure the supply of safe, high quality and affordable food to all in society.

It is a key safety net for Welsh farmers and rural communities, with on average more than 80% of farming income in Wales being reliant on the BPS, a situation not unique to Wales.

“As an industry we are also preparing for the end of the Brexit transition period, the prime minister has said that the UK should ready itself for a ‘no deal’ with the EU. It is very clear that even if the UK and the EU secure a deal, the level of additional costs and bureaucracy associated with accessing EU markets will add significant cost to trade.

“These costs will no doubt be passed back to Welsh farmers and place further pressure on farm profitability.”

Funding shortfall

Davies continued:

“Last week, we learnt as part of the UK Comprehensive Spending Review, that there appears to be an apparent shortfall of £95 million in funding for Welsh farming.

I would just like to reiterate our firm and unequivocal position, based on the unanimous views of members who attended an emergency meeting of our NFU Cymru Council, that the BPS 2021 must be maintained at current funding levels.

“I ask, on behalf of Welsh farming, that you make a statement to clarify that this will continue to be the case.

“At a time of such uncertainty Welsh farming, like so many other key industries, requires measures to provide certainty and stability.

“For farming businesses this is delivered through the BPS and this must be the priority for the Welsh government.

The circa £243 million provided through the BPS secures the maintenance and enhancement of the £1.6 billion annual aggregate output of Welsh agriculture and the employment of around 80,000 people in the food and farming priority sector.

“Losing this support puts all this at risk alongside threatening the well-being of our rural businesses, people and communities that are heavily reliant on Welsh farming,” he concluded.