FARMERS have blasted the Welsh Government’s decision to siphon 15 per cent from their direct payments - saying it could devastate rural communities in North Wales.
Minister for natural resource and food, Alun Davies has announced the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) funding for 2014 -20 will be split between direct payments to farmers (Pillar one) and the Rural Development Programme (Pillar two).
Mr Davies will transfer the maximum level permitted of 15 per cent, the highest in the UK and Europe, from Pillar one into Pillar two.
Ed Bailey, president of National Farmers Union Cymru, said: “Our Government has made the unilateral decision to place Welsh farmers at a significant competitive disadvantage compared to farmers in the rest of the UK and Europe.
“The decision was to siphon away nearly £300 million from the bottom line of Welsh agriculture over the next seven years.
“He says that this money will be spent on rural activity but as yet he has no plan on how or where it will be spent.
“Farmers are the backbone to rural life in Wales, we provide the production base, we support a multi-billion pound food and drink industry.”
Mr Bailey, a farmer from Meirionnydd, said he fears food production could be exported out of Wales.
Nantglyn farmer Hefin Edwards said: “The money will not come back into the rural economy, it seldom does.
“This will affect the rural community not just farmers.
“If that extra seven per cent was left in my pocket it would be spent in the local economy.
“This will not just damage farmers it will damage rural businesses too.
“The minister could say the 15 per cent will be spent on village schools or rural apprenticeships but he hasn’t come out with a plan.”
The Farmers’ Union of Wales also believe the modulation rate will disadvantage farmers in Wales.
Bala farmer and FUW president Emyr Jones said: “The FUW had called for a stepped approach to modulation as opposed to going for the maximum straight away and there are now fears that Welsh farmers will be disadvantaged over other farmers in the EU.
“The cut in the EU budget was already going to have a major impact on the single farm payment and the announcement will make things worse.
“We are concerned the announcement could potentially create far more disruption than any payment rate decision.”
Mr Davies said the CAP will result in an extra £286 million to support rural activity in Wales.
He said: “Both Pillars of the CAP are crucial to the future development of Welsh agriculture and I believe they must be taken together as a single package.”