Rebecca Evans, Deputy Minister for Farming and Food
I am providing an update to my statement of 12 December, where I advised that the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) Regulations would be quashed.
I met the FUW, NFU Cymru and CLA before Christmas to take stock of the outcome of the legal challenge to the planned BPS regions. We discussed the impact of the case, including the likelihood that, in the limited time now available, it will no longer be possible to introduce a moorland region in this CAP reform process. We together reaffirmed that, as far as possible, the twin guiding principles of minimising disruption through the move to area-based payments, and of recognising the character of the land through payment rates, should continue to inform the development of new BPS arrangements. Options for the future will need to be evaluated for their impact on farmers in all the land regions, and for their capacity to be delivered within the reduced timescales available. Options will also need to be appraised against the points raised in the recent legal challenge. The meeting was united on the need to take a pragmatic approach to deliver the best possible outcome for Welsh farming as a whole.
Work has already begun on alternative options. These will be considered later this month, first by the CAP Data Modelling Group which comprises representatives from the industry including FUW, NFU Cymru, CLA, CAAV, TFA, YFC and RICS. Following input from that group the options and proposals for consultation will be considered further by the CAP High Level Group whose function is to take a wider policy view across the reform process and whose members are stakeholder organisations’ leaders. I will also be seeking the views of the Wales Biodiversity Partnership Steering Group. I shall be looking to all these stakeholder bodies to endorse the consultation exercise as presenting our remaining practical options. Formal consultation will commence when I am satisfied that the proposals are ready for wider consideration.
Although Welsh Government has been clear throughout that all payment rates were indicative pending establishment of total entitlements under the new BPS, it is inevitable that this revised situation will result in change to the payments that farmers might have expected in the years ahead. The budget available for Pillar 1 payments remains as before; some redistribution is therefore inevitable. It is also likely that there will be some consequential impacts onour ability to make payments in December 2015. Whichever option I choose following consultation will be subject to agreement with the European Commission, which is aware of the current situation.