UK - A contingency plan for agriculture should the UK vote to leave the European Union on June 23 is absolutely essential, according to the Farmers’ Union of Wales.
“Defra Minister George Eustice recently hinted what a contingency plan for agriculture could look like but there are apparently no firm or detailed plans in the pipeline and what is being said is little better than speculation,” said FUW Managing Director Alan Davies.
The Union’s renewed call for a plan B comes after Mr Eustice implied a system similar to current area payments would ‘probably’ be kept, with accreditation schemes that farmers could enrol in automatically rather than having an annual application process.
Mr Eustice also suggested the budget allocated to farm payments – which has already been cut significantly – could be slashed by around a third.
“Mr Eustice’s indication that the payment budget could be cut so significantly will for many confirm a key fear that support for rural areas will diminish if we leave the EU – after all, successive UK Governments have been at the forefront of moves to reduce the CAP budget for years,” said Mr Davies.
“Many may also fear that Mr Eustice’s £2 billion figure is far higher than what would eventually be allocated.”
Mr Davies also highlighted the uncertainty in terms of what proportion of such a figure would come to Wales.
“If Wales’ proportion of a £2 billion budget reflected current allocations, Wales would be worse off by about £85 million per annum. The impact for our rural communities and supply chains would be devastating.
“Of course there are things that could be done differently should we leave the EU but at the moment we are still in the dark and we have already urged the Welsh and UK Governments to come up with contingency plans to secure the future of Welsh farming,” said Mr Davies.
“We have said it before and we will say it again, leaving the EU is not a policy that the Union supports. We have yet to see any evidence that leaving the EU will have any significant impact on the rules and regulations that many criticise.
“We do have plenty of evidence published by successive UK Governments that support for farming, rural communities and food security will quickly dissolve once we are outside the EU,” added Mr Davies.
“We have yet to see any clear evidence that key political players have done a U-turn over such policies.
Mr Eustice, who’s campaigning to leave the EU, is at direct odds with Defra secretary Liz Truss, who has warned that such a move would be a leap into the dark – a sentiment that is echoed by the FUW.
“Even though it’s commendable that Mr Eustice is having a go at putting a contingency plan out there, at the moment there is absolutely no meat on the bones, in particular in terms of the impact for those who derive an income from agriculture, and the thousands of secondary and tertiary businesses which rely on agriculture,” added Mr Davies.
The Union believes that voters need to have all the details ahead of the June referendum in order to make an informed decision and will continue to bring as much information to the table as possible in the upcoming EU debates.
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