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Rishi Sunak Criticises Welsh Government's Farm Subsidy Reforms as Threat to UK Food Security

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has voiced strong objections to the Welsh government's proposed alterations to farm subsidies, labelling them as "damaging" and "shocking".



He has accused the Welsh Labour of jeopardising the UK's food supply security with their consultation proposals, which include compensating farmers for maintaining trees on 10% of their land, a move that has ignited protests.


Welsh ministers have defended the new scheme as being designed to support all farmers. During a meeting with farmers on Thursday, Sunak was handed a letter urging the UK government to intervene and possibly withhold funding for the Welsh government's agricultural budget.


The contest for the next First Minister of Wales sees Vaughan Gething and Jeremy Miles both committing to heed the concerns of farmers. Recent days saw outgoing First Minister Mark Drakeford confronted at a college in Rhyl, and a slow-driving protest took place in Newtown over the weekend.


Ahead of the Welsh Conservatives' party conference in Llandudno, Sunak expressed to BBC Wales that farming unions are "rightly concerned about Labour's policies here in Wales". He criticised Labour's plans, which "by their own assessment would cost thousands of jobs, reduce our food security and damage farm income".


Following Brexit, the UK has had to establish its own agricultural support schemes. While farming subsidies are managed by Cardiff in Wales, the UK government oversees them in England. The new post-Brexit farm payments scheme in England has faced criticism for prioritising environmental policy over food productivity.


At a conference earlier this week, Sunak announced a series of measures to assist farmers, which were generally welcomed by the National Farmers Union, though it was noted that no new funding was included.


Sunak emphasised the UK's commitment to providing £2.4 billion across the United Kingdom, maintaining every penny of funding previously received from the EU.


The letter to Sunak expressed hope that the UK government would condition Welsh government funding on a more "realistic and sustainable plan for the future of agriculture and food production in Wales".


The campaigners labelled the Welsh government's stance as "unreasonable" and a "profound risk to farmers' livelihoods".


When questioned about the UK government's acquisition of the Wylfa site from its former developer, Sunak declined to comment on any ongoing discussions.


Last year, the UK government pledged to fund the electrification of North Wales' mainline, with Sunak stating that while such rail projects take time, the necessary funds have been allocated.


A Welsh government spokesperson highlighted the maintenance of the Basic Payment Scheme at £238m in 2024, a move aimed at providing stability for farmers, despite challenging financial circumstances.


They contrasted their approach with that of the UK government in England, emphasising the development of the Sustainable Farming Scheme in partnership with the sector to support all Welsh farmers through a Universal Baseline Payment.


The spokesperson also noted the impact of UK government decisions, which have resulted in Wales losing £243m in replacement EU funding, reaffirming the Welsh government's commitment to working in partnership with the farming sector.


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