Transition and Funding
The Welsh Government proposes a multi-year transition period. however, given the continuing uncertainty surrounding Brexit, a specific time period has not been specified in the consultation.
Welsh Government says that it will ensure that all funds are directed to farming, forestry and land managers, but which elements of the Rural Development Programme should be incorporated and the appropriate budget balance will be decided when funding is confirmed by Westminster.
Purpose of transition
The Welsh Government says a transition is needed to (i) Give the opportunity for farmers to prepare for Brexit (ii) Give farmers the necessary time frame to enter the proposed scheme and (iii) Give Welsh Government time to prepare.
The Welsh Government acknowledge that the new scheme must be correctly designed and practical, and that to be successful, it must provide time for farmers to make adjustments; encourage entry to the new scheme; enable the available budget to be spent during each year of transition and allow for support under current schemes to cease at the end of the transition period.
Three alternative options for the transition period are proposed:
Option a – Gradual and Phased
• BPS would decline over a period of time
• Released funds for Brexit support and annual payments for new scheme entrants
• May need to cap new scheme payments to avoid over-committing funds
• BPS would close at the end of transition
• Applicants may need encouragement to enter the new scheme
FUW initial response
Compared with last year’s Brexit and our Land proposal to transition to a new system by 2025, recognition by the Government of the need for a realistic timescale for introducing any new scheme is welcome – particularly given that what is proposed has never before been tried anywhere, and would likely be the most complex rural payment system to be introduced anywhere in the world.
Acceptance that no scheme should be introduced before detailed modelling and impact assessments have been undertaken is also welcome: As First Minister Mark Drakeford said recently, albeit in a different Brexit context, ‘vapid optimism’ about the viability and positive outcomes of a new scheme should not be relied on, and ministers and civil servants need facts and figures which will give them certainty that they will not go down in history as having destroyed an industry and entire rural communities.
In terms of the three transition options, there are significant concerns that any approach that targets certain areas or types of farms would make those businesses guinea pigs in a way which would potentially disadvantage them compared with others.
Option B – enrolment
• Any farmer would be able to enrol during a multi-year enrolment period
• Maximise the number of farms
• effective budget management before the scheme begins
• BPS payments same as Option A
• All new schemes to commence at the end of the transition period
• Any further scheme entry would depend on further scheme budget
• Allows for farmers to make decisions on whether or not to enter the scheme through the Farm Sustainability Review
Option C – staged enrolment
• The same as Option B but through a multi-year enrolment period but scheme commencement may take a number of years
• BPS payments same as Option A & B
• Some BPS would be taken for Brexit support
• Would allow for defining farmers into groups, based on farm type for example and each group would enrol each year
• each group to be offered a Farm Sustainability Review and collated BPS from that group will fund the scheme
• Transition period up until all farms have been given the opportunity to enrol