Welsh government silence on payment capping is ‘shameful’

The failure of the Welsh government and its Agriculture White Paper to refer to payment capping is “shameful” and raises “major concerns”,  to such an extent that a regressive move away from the policy is being considered.

That is the view of Ceredigion sheep farmer Anwen Hughes, who says the Farmers Union of Wales (FUW) is right to highlight the issue amongst one of its ten key manifesto asks.

“FUW members have consistently supported the capping of farm payments in response to consultations over the past two decades, and we successfully lobbied for their introduction when it first became possible,” said Hughes.

A limit on the amount of direct payments a farm business in Wales can receive was introduced in 2015 by then minister Alun Davies.

“In response to the 2018 and 2019 consultations on future payments, the FUW stressed the importance of a payment cap which is below the current level that takes full account of labour costs, in order to maximise the amount of money going to typical family farms and those who make the greatest contribution to rural communities and the economy,” said Hughes.

Reducing direct payments

The European Commission is proposing reducing the share of direct payments received by EU farmers above €60,000/farm and setting a limit of €100,000/farm after labour costs have been taken into account – a position backed by the European Parliament during the negotiations with the EU ministers.

Anwen Hughes

Higher levels of support per hectare for small and medium sized farms are also proposed in the EU, with both this and the topic of payment capping given a high profile in Common Agricultural Policy reform proposals.

Hughes added:

By contrast, the Welsh government has been largely silent on the issue of capping payments, suggesting it is shying away from the issue and considering a U-turn.

“This, coupled with the proposal to base payments solely on the delivery of ‘public goods’, risks moving money from actively working family farms to large landowners, big business and landowning charities who are not producing food,” she concluded.