By Debbie James

Welsh farmers who deliver ‘environmental outcomes’ on their farms post-Brexit will be paid an annual sum of money by the Welsh Government through a new support structure set to replace direct subsidies.

Farmers had already braced themselves to lose the basic payment scheme (BPS) as the Government made it clear that it would start phasing out this subsidy in 2021.

They had expected the current farm support structure to be replaced by two schemes – an economic resilience scheme to pay for capital projects and a public goods scheme for environmental initiatives.

But Wales’ minister for environment, energy and rural affairs, Lesley Griffiths, has now announced that she favours a single scheme aimed at sustainable farming practices, which she says is necessary to reverse biodiversity decline, meet Wales’ carbon budgets and hit clean air targets.

Farmers will receive yearly payments, agreed via multi-annual contracts, but they will need to meet environmental targets to collect them.

Ms Griffiths is proposing the new scheme after considering 12,203 responses to the Brexit and Our Land consultation document, which she launched in July 2018.

Under the new system, farmers might, for instance, be paid to adopt a more targeted approach to nutrient management to protect soil, water and air quality.

Capital grants and other types of one-off support could also be made if the target of that investment is likely to increase a farm’s profit margins and financial position.

The government confirmed it was also considering changes to farm tenancy legislation to ensure the new payment scheme benefits active farmers.

Speaking during a recent plenary session at Cardiff Bay, Ms Griffiths said a new approach was necessary to balance the needs of the current generation with the government’s obligations to the next.

The proposed scheme would allow the government to explore economic, environmental and social opportunities in tandem, she said.

The responses to the consultation highlighted the production of food and the production of public goods can go hand in hand, Ms Griffiths suggested.

“In many cases, the same action, done in the right way, can contribute to both outcomes.

“We want to pay for these environmental outcomes.

“In this way, we can support sustainable food production.’’

Another consultation exploring Ms Griffiths proposals will be launched ahead of the Royal Welsh Show in July.