By Debbie James

The Welsh Government has taken an unprecedented step by writing to every farmer in Wales to defend its post-Brexit payment reforms.

It comes after a summer campaign by the Farmers’ Union of Wales urging its members to reject the proposals and demand the retention of the BPS.

The union suggests that ending the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) risks “financial hardships and the loss of farms and rural businesses’’ but in direct reaction, Wales’ rural affairs secretary Lesley Griffiths has now written an open letter to farmers setting out why she believes maintaining the status quo after the UK leaves the European Union would not work for Wales.

Farmers also received a factsheet in which the government sought to explode what it labels as “myths’’ being perpetuated about its reform proposals.

It is thought to be the first time that the government has intervened part-way through a consultation.

Ms Griffiths described the FUW campaign as “misleading” and argued that keeping the current system would leave Welsh farmers worse off.

Brexit means that the government must do things differently, the minister insisted, and that included abolishing direct subsidies from 2025.

“There is no debate on whether we should support farmers: we will and we will continue to protect the funding. But we need to provide support in a different way to keep farmers on the land,’’ she said.

Ms Griffiths said she was open to new ideas but that ‘business as usual’ was not an option.

“We need farmers to engage properly with us to help make this work, so the recent misleading FUW campaign is not helpful.”

But FUW president Glyn Roberts is seeking clarification on which claims Ms Griffiths considers are misleading.

He said he rejected the accusation that the union had run a misleading campaign rather than one which reiterated its genuine concerns.

Mr Roberts has written to the cabinet secretary requesting details of claims she believes are misleading and not down to a difference of opinions.

The government believes the industry in Wales needs to respond to the challenge posed by Brexit by improving productivity, reducing costs and diversifying and is currently consulting on its options for change, set out in its ‘Brexit and Our Land’ document.

In this, it proposes a two-tier system – one for investment grants to improve farm efficiencies and the other offering an income stream for named ‘public goods’ such as initiatives to improve water quality, reducing flood risk and improve habitats.