Plaid Cymru has warned that over a third of Welsh farmers could suffer if proposed changes to CAP payments go ahead. Plaid MEP Jill Evans and the party's Rural Affairs spokesperson Llyr Huws Gruffydd have said that the Labour Welsh Farming Minister will now be tested on whether he can stand up for Welsh farmers and get them a better deal.
Plaid Cymru MEP Jill Evans has reacted with caution to comments made in Brussels by European Agriculture Commissioner Dacan Ciolos. Mr Ciolos had been setting out his proposals for reform of the Common Agricultural Policy to MEPs. The European Commission has indicated that it wants to make the CAP more competitive and greener, with an emphasis on food quality and a fairer distribution of funding.Ms Evans is concerned that a study by the Welsh government has shown that more than a third of Welsh farms could face serious difficulties if the proposals are adopted as they stand.
Ms Evans has however said that she is delighted that Welsh lobbying efforts have paid off and that direct payments to farmers will continue, despite efforts by the Westminster ConDem government to abolish them.
Plaid Cymru’s Jill Evans indicated that she would be working with colleagues to amend the proposals and maintain EU support for small family farms.
Commenting, Plaid Cymru MEP Jill Evans said:
"It is very worrying that as things stand, over a third of Welsh farms could see a ten per cent drop in their income. Farmers in Wales are already struggling and this further attack on their livelihoods would inevitably lead to hardship. This wouldn’t just hit the farmers themselves, but also our wider rural communities.
“Whilst I'm pleased that essential payments to farmers will continue, the proposed changes could have very serious implications for Welsh farmers. The European Commission has proposed a transitional period of five years to introduce the new arrangements, but with as much as 40% of the payment calculated by new criteria in the first year. That's far too steep, far too quickly. I will be working with colleagues to ensure the change is more gradual.
"I'm glad that the ConDem coalition government in London has failed in its attempts to get rid of direct payments altogether. When you consider that direct payments account for a large part of Welsh farmers' income, it's clear that abolishing them would be devastating for rural Wales. As Plaid Cymru has long argued, direct payments must continue.”
Ms Evans added:
"Of course, what will also be essential is the budget allocated to the CAP. The European Commission should at least maintain the current budget. This is why I have voted in favour of increasing the EU budget - to ensure that the CAP and Structural Funds, amongst other programmes, are adequately funded."
Plaid Cymru's Rural Affairs spokesperson Llyr Huws Gruffydd AM commented:
"It is vital that Welsh farmers do not lose out in the reform of CAP and it is the job of the Labour farming minister to ensure that they don’t. During the last election campaign, Labour pledged to stand up for Wales. The Labour Minister’s test will be to stand up for Welsh farmers and get the best deal for them. I am very concerned that Wales does not have a proper seat at the table and that the Labour Minister clearly sees himself as part of the Tory led UK team – the same team that wanted to see an end to direct payments.
“Plaid Cymru acknowledges the need for a reform of the CAP, but Wales is already leading the way in Europe with our agri-environmental schemes. Our rural communities must not be punished for this. Welsh farmers have a good record on greening, so any extra greening components included in the requirements for direct payments should complement the Glastir scheme, not tread on its toes and duplicate work."