NFU CYMRU says an announcement by Welsh Government that the Rural Affairs budget will be cut by £37.5m will be a “real worry” for farmers in Wales.
This week, the Minister for Finance, Rebecca Evans delivered a statement to the Welsh Parliament outlining cuts to several Welsh Government portfolios to address a significant shortfall in the wider Welsh budget. As a result, the Rural Affairs revenue budget has been revised down by £17.3m, while the Rural Affairs capital budget will decrease by £20.2m.
NFU Cymru has said that these cuts will place further financial challenges on farm businesses who continue to deliver for the people and communities of Wales.
Responding to today’s announcement, NFU Cymru Deputy President Abi Reader said: “It is a real worry for the industry to see this loss to the Rural Affairs budget today. It’s important to note that these cuts come against a backdrop of funding to farmers having effectively fallen by 30% over the past decade as a result of inflation.
“The entire Rural Affairs budget, including agriculture, currently makes up just 2% of Welsh Government spending. For this, farmers manage 80% of the land area of Wales, underpin an £8.5 billion food and farming sector and make an unparalleled contribution to the economic, environmental, social and cultural wellbeing of rural Wales – we believe this represents a good return on investment.”
However, Sam Kenyon, the Sustainable Farming Lead for the Nature Friendly Farming Network, takes a different view. She said, “We must recognise that farming is just one of the pressures on the public finances. Within a tight budget the government has to fund many worthy causes, including our NHS, education and policing. As farmers I think it’s crucial that we adapt and learn to build financial sustainability, as well as nutritional and ecological sustainability, in to our farm businesses.
“We also need to appreciate that public funds are just one income source – we need fair prices for contracts with major retailers, and we need to attract investment from corporations to offset their ecological impact. Instead of green washing, big companies can make the difference to rural communities by supporting farmers and enabling the ecological improvements all of us in society (wildlife included) need to see across the landscape. Results based payments could be really positive for their story, our land and rural communities.”
Reader said, “Welsh farming is facing unprecedented challenges, with input costs now 40% higher than they were in 2020. At the same time, farmers need to continue to produce high quality safe and affordable food for all in society, helping to meet both domestic and global security challenges, while simultaneously caring for our farmed environment and working towards our ambition of net zero agriculture. At a time when our farmers are facing a number of high-priority demands, our government has today cut our budget by 7.8%
“NFU Cymru has consistently raised concerns about the delivery of Rural Development funding, initially under EU programmes and more recently under the Rural Investment Support Schemes. We would reiterate our call for an independent review into Welsh Government’s delivery of Rural Development funding.”