A SENIOR Carmarthenshire councillor has claimed that stopping basic payments to farmers in Wales could have a similar impact on rural communities to Margaret Thatcher’s decision to close mines.

Councillor Cefin Campbell, executive board member for communities and rural affairs, received backing for his motion calling on the Welsh Government to delay its post-Brexit land management programme.

Several councillors said a proposal to stop basic payments to farmers — contained in the Welsh Government’s Brexit and our Land — would devastate the rural economy.

Landowning councillors declared an interest and were given dispensation to speak, but were not allowed to vote.

Cllr Campbell said basic payments contributed around 80 per cent of farmers’ net profits, which in turn benefited vets, auctioneers, food suppliers and rural community in general.

The motion also raised concerns that the proposals could lead to non-food producing landowners competing for funds currently available to farmers.

Cllr Campbell said: “The future of our market towns depend very much on the rural agricultural sector.

“The farming industry is facing the most worrying period of time since the Second World War.”

He said 1,000 to 2,000 young people were leaving the county each year, and that the “very far-reaching” White Paper recommendations “might change the way farmers deal with their land forever”.

The White Paper proposes replacing basic payments and other current initiatives with two new schemes — one for land managers and their supply chains to increase competitiveness and improve high-quality food production, the other a “public goods” scheme to encourage action to prevent habitat loss and promote clean air and water.

The Welsh Government said maintaining the status quo was not an option and that its proposals aimed to keep farmers on the land.

At the meeting Cllr Campbell urged more emphasis on supporting food production, and called on Cardiff Bay leaders to delay any new scheme until a post-Brexit trade deal was agreed.

He also said there should be a five to seven-year transition period for any new land management programme.

He added: “It’s very possible we will see the same effect in our communities that closing the closing the coal mines had on mining communities during Margaret Thatcher’s time.”

Seconding the motion, councillor Ann Davies said a “perfect storm” was brewing, and added: “Uplands farmers are dependent on basic farm payments in order to make a living.”