THE FUW has backed the gradual introduction of top-up payments on the first 54 hectares in its response to the Welsh Government’s consultation on Wales’ Basic Payment Scheme (BPS).
The option, referred to in the EU regulations as “redistributive payments”, would mean moving from the current historically-based model towards estimated payments of €243 for the first 54 hectares of eligible land and €124 for all remaining eligible land by 2019. FUW president Glyn Roberts said: “The majority of our 12 county executive committees supported the phased introduction of a 54-hectare top-up model paid at the maximum rate allowed within the regulations, while the remainder of committees failed to reach consensus.
“The majority view was that a top-up model is believed to be the only realistic option at this stage, which goes some way towards reducing disruption for the industry as a whole, an overriding policy goal agreed by Welsh Government and stakeholders many years ago.” The 54-hectare top-up would benefit those with around 125 hectares (300 acres) or less of eligible land around when compared with a uniform 2019 flat rate of around €176, reducing financial losses for around 70 per cent of claimants. In particular, the approach would help mitigate losses for those sectors likely to be worst hit by the implementation of a uniform flat rate payment model.
However, Mr Roberts acknowledged that the union’s support for the option would not be popular with all.
“We have a democratically established mandate to support the implementation of this option but it’s estimated that around 33 per cent of recipients would be better off under a flat rate system, while for a large number such a system will merely reduce the losses they would experience under any system,” he said.
Mr Roberts added that there was widespread frustration among members that the maps held by Welsh Government are now not believed to be sufficiently accurate to implement a regional payment model which would allow higher payments to be made on better quality land.
“All the work done to date shows that the best way to minimise disruption is to have a regional payment model with higher payments on better quality land and we therefore remain frustrated that our calls to start such work were not heeded until the 11th hour. “We have, therefore, called on Welsh Government to start mapping work at the earliest opportunity in order to prepare for and inform the next cAP and any mid-term review.”
However, Mr Roberts said that all the work undertaken to date, including the FuW’s own pioneering modelling work in 2009, shows large shifts in funding between individuals, regions and sectors, irrespective of which payment model is implemented. “under current circumstances any losses will be exacerbated by a 10 per cent fall in Wales’ Pillar 1 budget and the transfer of 15 per cent of the budget to pillar 2, with the Euro exchange rate adding to uncertainty.
“These are things we cannot influence so we must ensure that our rural development programme focusses on helping those who are set to lose most under the payment system adopted in Wales.”