William Powell AM calls for caution in further legal challenges over BPS - in the face of a 'perfect storm' for Welsh agriculture
At last week's Royal Welsh Agricultural Show, speculation was rife that a further BPS legal challenge is being prepared, this time by a number of farm businesses in Wales which stand to lose out heavily following the Welsh Government's recent announcements on its chosen way forward. This follows the earlier successful legal challenge of last December, which led to a fundamental rethink.
Commenting on the potential for further litigation, William Powell, Welsh Liberal Democrat Assembly Member for Mid and West Wales and Shadow Minister for Food and Farming, said:
"In the unlikely event of farmers contemplating further recourse to law seeking my advice, I would urge them to proceed with extreme caution. Whilst I recognise the disappointment and trading difficulties that the Deputy Minister, Rebecca Evans', recent announcement may bring to certain farm businesses, I think it is important to look at the wider picture.
"The 'perfect storm' facing Welsh agriculture is genuine, with the collapse in farm gate prices for milk, combined with disappointing lamb prices and New Zealand produce being imported into Wales in unprecedented quantities. Information that I have gleaned from banks involved in supporting Welsh agriculture indicates that later this year we are in real danger of large scale cash flow problems leading to farm bankruptcies across Wales. In this context, we should be very careful what we wish for. Any action triggered by a section of Welsh farmers that threatens delay in vital BPS payments for all has the potential to unleash a disaster. ''
"Farmers seeking an equitable and sustainable payments system to support Welsh agriculture in the future should join my call for comprehensive remapping of Wales' farm land. In order for this to be achieved - and to secure greater confidence in the industry - farmers and their representatives in Wales should take a proactive role in the European referendum, due to take place next year.
"Given the uncertainty triggered by David Cameron's In/Out referendum, we need a strong voice from Welsh farmers, stressing the importance of tariff free access to European export markets and a fair CAP regime. Only our continued membership of a reformed European Union - such as that advocated by EU Agricultural Commissioner Phil Hogan at the Royal Welsh Show - will allow that to become a reality - and secure the future of the industry."
Mark Williams, Chair of FUW in Montgomeryshire, added:
"I wholeheartedly agree that the farming industry should be united and hands-on in its support of maintaining our membership of the European Union. To leave the EU would be hugely detrimental to farmers across Wales and the UK and I very much hope that farmers can provide a strong and positive voice in support of a vote to remain a member European Union."