By Debbie James

Welsh farmers are to receive direct subsidies for an additional year – until 2021 – because of the delay to Brexit.

It is the second reprieve in 12 months for the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) in Wales; the rollout of the new system of support payment was due to begin following the 2019 payment, but that was delayed last year until 2020, and now 2021.

The Welsh Government said the latest postponement is a direct result of UK’s delayed exit from the EU; this has meant that its plans to transition to a new land management programme have had to be paused.

Honouring the 2021 payment comes with a proviso – it relies on the Welsh Government receiving sufficient levels of funding for agricultural support from the next UK Government, said rural affairs minister Lesley Griffiths.

Although she couldn’t guarantee the extent of that funding, she wanted the BPS to remain in place to “provide assurances’’ to farmers and to help them to “plan ahead’’.

The earliest any transition to the new targeted system of farm support can now start is 2022.

Farmers’ leaders welcomed the news but took the opportunity to warn of the consequences of scrapping the BPS.

Farmers’ Union of Wales president Glyn Roberts said: “Changes which result in the loss of the current system, which is the envy of the rest of the UK, and its replacement with complex environmental contracts, would be a massive own goal and a step backwards – not to mention immensely damaging for Welsh businesses.”

The Brexit delay may have safeguarded the BPS for an additional year but a casualty is that fewer farmers than in previous year will have received their full 2019 BPS cash on December 2, day one of the payments window.

This year only around 75 per cent of farmers will have received their full payment on that day – last year it was over 85 per cent.

However farmers that don’t receive their full payment, but have applied for the BPS support scheme – an interest-free government loan – will receive up to 90 per cent of their BPS 2019 claim value.

Ms Griffiths said the reason Wales would not achieve a similar level as in previous years of paying all BPS cash to farmers at the earliest opportunity was because her priority had been preparing farmers for the possibility of a no-deal Brexit.

“As long as farmers have applied for the support scheme, they will receive the majority of their BPS payment claim value from December 9,’’ she said.