By Debbie James

Changes to the subsidy system in Wales will see fewer on-farm inspections and swifter payments for cross-border farms.

The changes are being put in place to help support the competitiveness of farming and food production, says Welsh rural affairs secretary Lesley Griffiths.

They are among 11 recommendations arising from the recent consultation on simplifying agricultural support as Wales continues with the current CAP regime until a new policy is developed.

On the basic payment scheme (BPS), any unspent funds resulting from administrative penalties or where entitlements are held in the national reserve, will be made available to the Welsh authorities to distribute: previously, they were returned to Brussels.

For cross-border farms, the Welsh Government will make BPS payments in full on all land within Wales, removing the need to wait for administrative checks to be completed across the border in England. A minimum claim size of five hectares is to be retained.

On greening, the government plans to end crop diversification, otherwise known as the three-crop rule.

The 30 per cent greening payment is also being absorbed into the general BPS payment but farmers will still have to meet the permanent grassland and environmental focus area requirements under the cross-compliance system.

The government had planned to close the Young Farmers Scheme, which pays a BPS top-up for five years to those who started farming before the age of 40.

But, following concern from respondents to the consultation, that will continue to operate for now.

Similarly, hemp will still count as an eligible crop for claiming BPS.

Farmers will still have to get their BPS claims in by May 15 each year, but in future they will have until December 31 to submit any supporting documentation.

Inspection rates will drop from 5 per cent to 3 per cent of claimants, and an advance 70 per cent payment will be made each October, both for validated and unvalidated claims.

“The changes being taken forward are small but impactful and will help to ensure stability and continued support for farmers once the UK withdraws from the European Union,” said Ms Griffiths.

Meanwhile work is continuing with preparing a new support scheme for Welsh agriculture designed around the Sustainable Land Management framework.

This will be delivered through a white paper and the introduction of an Agriculture (Wales) Bill in the next Senedd term, which runs from May 2021 for five years.