Bank for farmers is a Brexit ‘shield’
LAND BANK IDEA TO HELP YOUNG FARMERS WITH CHEAP LOANS
PLAID Cymru called for a Welsh Agricultural Land Bank to safeguard rural communities in the wake of Brexit.
The party floated the idea at Anglesey Show on a day when the FUW launched a new postcard campaign that aims to torpedo the Welsh Government’s post-Brexit funding proposals for farming.
Plaid leader Leanne Wood called for a new financing system that would provide zero and low interest mortgages and loans to struggling farmers and new entrants.
The Land Bank would also allow tenant farmers to buy their holdings on an “affordable basis”.
An additional function would be to buy up newly marketed farms and rent them out at low rates to next generation farmers.
Ms Wood said this package would create a “national shield to protect our small and mediumsized farms”.
Otherwise Wales may lose “swathes” of farmland to institutional investors, she said.
“Reports are already becoming commonplace that the future of the Welsh family farm is under threat and may even disappear within the next decade,” she claimed.
“I fear large companies and hedge funds would take the opportunity to buy up swathes of Welsh agricultural land.
“This would mean a huge transfer of one of our most valuable natural resources into the hands of a small number of very wealthy investors.”
Details of Plaid’s latest policy proposal are yet to be disclosed – but start-up costs are likely to be high.
Gwynedd Watkin, the FUW’s Caernarfonshire CEO, welcomed the idea in principle.
“Anything that gives young farmers a helping hand has our support,” he said. “Starting a farm is not like buying or renting an office as the initial costs are so high.
“However a Land Bank would need to have a system of checking applica- tions to ensure a valid business plan is in place.”
Plaid’s Land Bank idea sits alongside its proposals to provide a basic income to farmers – a concept that chimes with the FUW’s quick-fire rejection of Cardiff’s postBrexit plans.
The Brexit and Our Land consultation suggests a future support scheme based on investment grants and payment for “public goods” such as habitat improvements and carbon management. All direct subsidies would be abolished from 2025.
The FUW insists the public goods scheme is just a “glorified agri-environment scheme” that will benefit some and damage many others.
The union launched a postcard campaign which calls on farmers and others to reject the public goods element which, it said, may result in a “post- code lottery” system of funding.
Instead the FUW wants to see the existing payments system retained until the final level of Welsh farm funding from Westminster has been agreed.
“This would give us some parity with our main competitors in Europe and parts of the UK which propose to continue direct payments,” said Mr Watkin.
A steady stream of visitors arrived for the Anglesey County Show