Welsh farmers have slammed the UK Government for slashing the agriculture budget in what they have branded a “Brexit betrayal.”
Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s decision in the spending review to cut the money for farmers by at least £95 million has enraged the Farmers’ Union of Wales.
It says the decision breaks the promise they were made in the Conservative election manifesto.
Because of this promise, the FUW expected Wales’ agricultural and rural development budget to be in the region of £337 million. However, the 2021-2022 budget will now be £242 million, which equates to a cut of around 28 per cent.
The slash in funds comes two weeks after FUW President Glyn Roberts wrote to Secretary of State for Wales Simon Hart asking him to provide assurances that the budget had been maintained.
According to Simon Hart the commitment to maintain farming incomes in the manifesto is “being honoured”.
Mr Roberts said: “The decision to slash the budget is therefore a complete betrayal of the farmers who have kept producing food and feeding the nation throughout the coronavirus pandemic, and adds to the extreme anger already felt following the UK government’s decision to oppose a legislative ‘red line’ in the Agriculture Bill that would have prevented the importation of low quality food in future trade deals.”
“The significant impacts such a cut in funding will have on Welsh farms, agricultural businesses and rural communities are clear, and these will come at a time when the industry is already anticipating major problems due to non-tariff barriers, unfair competition from sub-standard imports and the possibility of massive EU tariff barriers in the event of a no-deal Brexit”.
The FUW also says there is a need to ensure a UK-EU trade deal is in place at the end of the EU withdrawal period and urgently address major non-tariff barriers and other issues.
Mr Roberts added: “Farmers, businesses and rural constituents were promised an ‘oven-ready deal’, minimum trade friction and that the agricultural budget would be maintained.
“While the FUW was sceptical about such promises, many accepted them in good faith. What has transpired can only be described as a Brexit betrayal that will have far-reaching consequences for family farms, rural businesses and communities,”
Rebecca Evans, Wales Finance Minister, accused the chancellor of “broken promises” on the budget cut.
She said: “If you’re looking for a serious failure of management of funding, and if you’re looking for a betrayal of the farming industry, I think that you can find it right there.”