Bank for farm­ers is a Brexit ‘shield’

LAND BANK IDEA TO HELP YOUNG FARM­ERS WITH CHEAP LOANS

Bangor Mail - - ANGLESEY COUNTY SHOW 2018 - An­drew For­grave

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

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