Recently we’ve seen Plaid’s Rural Affairs Minister, Elin Jones, responding to the European Commission’s proposals for reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) which delivers £280million to farmers in Wales through the Single Payment Scheme. The Welsh Government’s position differs dramatically from that outlined by the Westminster Conservative Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Caroline Spelman, who during a recent speech on CAP said that “Now is the time to make very significant progress towards reducing our reliance on direct payments” and to “plan for their abolition”. Within the last few weeks Elin Jones presented a written statement on this issue calling for direct payments to farmers to continue. I want to make it quite clear that we are against any major reduction in the CAP budget.
The CAP Single Payment Scheme typically contributes between 80 and 90 per cent of farm business income and based on latest income figures for 2010, it is evident that all farming sectors in Wales would be non-viable without CAP payments. Elin Jones has said she will use the months ahead to play a full role in helping to shape the UK negotiating position, and as part of that process will withstand any attempts to bring direct payments to an end.
This position taken by the Conservative-led government in Westminster is vey disappointing and is in contrast with the approach of our Welsh Government. It’s not surprising that the Tory UK Secretary of State’s ambition to ‘abolish’ direct payments has been met with significant hostility from farming representatives. I would urge everybody to make sure that the European Commission is fully aware of what’s best for the industry in Wales and that our views differ to those of the UK Government. We also need to make sure that the local Tory politicians know that what their government is doing is unacceptable to the agricultural industry in Pembrokeshire.
Unfortunately, there seems to be a complete lack of understanding from the Tory-Liberal Government with regards to the needs of those living and working in rural Wales. I know that Plaid’s Elin Jones is working hard on this issue and will continue to do her best to influence the UK response to the European consultation on CAP reform. We can’t let the Tory – Liberal Westminster government put the agricultural industry here at risk.