Brexit 'will distract' from farm aid consultation

Lambs in field Image copyright PA Media
Image caption A no-deal Brexit is a more immediate prospect for people's attention, farming unions say

People should be given more time to share their views on new farm payments in Wales amid the prospect of a no-deal Brexit, farmers' leaders have said.

The call comes as Welsh Government ministers begin a tour of agricultural shows.

A new system from 2021, which aims to reward farmers who improve the land, is open for consultation until 30 October.

Farming unions said attention would be focused on the immediate impact of Brexit taking place the following day.

The Welsh Government said it "cannot simply sit back and wait for Brexit to happen to us".

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has vowed that the UK will leave the European Union on 31 October with or without an agreement.

First Minister Mark Drakeford and Rural Affairs Minister Lesley Griffiths - who have claimed a no-deal Brexit would have a "devastating" impact - have pledged to continue to support Welsh farmers.

A new system of subsidies will replace the European Union-funded Basic Payment Scheme, which currently gives farmers aid according to how much land they hold.

The ministers will discuss the Welsh Government's Sustainable Farming proposals at the Pembrokeshire Show in Haverfordwest later, followed by trips to Anglesey and Denbigh later this week.

Ms Griffiths said: "We want to work with farmers to design the scheme together to ensure it works on the ground."

Farming unions have given the proposals a qualified welcome, saying farmers will still need guaranteed payments to survive the uncertainty of prices and markets after Brexit.

They welcomed the Welsh Government's opposition to a no-deal Brexit, but questioned the timing of the consultation.

Richard Tudor, who represents upland farmers in NFU Cymru, said: "Against this backdrop it is impossible for farmers to properly consider revised proposals for future policy.

"The focus of our government should be on providing as much stability and certainty as possible to Welsh farm businesses."

FUW president Glyn Roberts called for a delay of a few months, saying: "Brexit disruption is likely to distract attention away from this important consultation document."

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: "While we appreciate the pressure everyone is under in preparing for the potentially devastating impact of a no deal Brexit, we cannot simply sit back and wait for Brexit to happen to us.

"We need to use the time we have to design the best way of supporting Welsh farmers, that's why this consultation is so very important."

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