Snow-hit farmers cash plea rejected by Welsh government

Sheep in snow in Flintshire
Image caption Heavy snow has left some Welsh hill farmers with heavy livestock losses

A written plea by farmers' leaders for cash help for farmers who lost livestock in the heavy snow has been rejected by the Welsh government.

Unions said ministers had "closed the door" to emergency aid being offered to farmers in other parts of the UK.

Some farmers in upland areas of north and mid Wales are still trying to find animals buried by the blizzards.

The minister responsible, Alun Davies, responded by reiterating his sympathy but again rejected the appeal for cash.

Earlier this week the Natural Resources and Food Minister extended the relaxation of rules on burying fallen livestock on farmland for a second week in a bid to assist the industry, but rejected calls for compensation.

However, the leaders of four groups representing farmers in Wales published an open letter on Friday urging Mr Davies to change his mind.

The letter was signed by leaders of the two main unions - NFU Cymru and the FUW - the president of Wales YFC (Young Farmers' Clubs), and the chairman of the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) in Wales.

They said they recognised that a devolved government in Wales has been generally good for the farming industry, and that it also receives substantial aid under EU funding.

'Parity of treatment'

But they continued: "In Wales, Welsh Government appears to have closed the door on emergency aid even before knowing the full extent of the losses which continue to mount on some farms as the snow recedes, the Welsh Government argument being that there are 'fundamental differences' to the losses sustained in Wales relative to other parts of the UK.

"From our perspectives, the losses that have been sustained on some farms in Wales are no different to those in Scotland, Northern Ireland or England and are such in some instances to threaten business viability."

The letter said that for some farmers it has been a "harrowing experience" that has left some drained "not just financially but emotionally too".

It added: "These farmers need evidence that Welsh government cares about their plight.

"They are not seeking to be advantaged as a result of the exceptional circumstances they have had to endure but they do look to Welsh Government to provide parity of treatment with others suffering similar consequences in other parts of the UK."

Mr Davies published a letter in response expressing his sympathy and the willingness of the Welsh government to consider any practical suggestions farmers' leaders may have to alleviate the situation.

But he repeated his decision to reject the idea of emergency aid.

"You - as the industry's leaders - must also understand that many other parts of the economy within Wales (and indeed other parts of agriculture) have suffered from the effects of the weather over the last 12 months, and more generally in the global downturn of recent years," he wrote.

"There is a real matter of fairness and affordability here. It is also hard to see how repeated demands for short-term subsidies support the process of change necessary for farming businesses to meet the increasing challenges of the global marketplace.

"We need solutions for Welsh agriculture that are sustainable - in every sense."

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