NFU Cymru has described comments about farm funding made by Mike Hedges MS in the Senedd as ‘completely out of touch’.

During a Senedd plenary debate on Wednesday, 10 January, Swansea East MS Mike Hedges stated ‘there is no reason to subsidise agriculture’.­

NFU Cymru has strongly criticised the comments, suggesting that Mr Hedges is ‘failing to see the bigger picture’, the value of the Welsh food and farming industry, nor the role that farmers play in feeding the nation and supporting thriving communities.

The union has also highlighted independent consumer research it commissioned recently which highlighted high levels of consumer backing for Welsh Government using public funds to support Welsh farmers to produce food.

Reacting to the MS’s comments, NFU Cymru president Aled Jones said: “While it is only right that public spending is scrutinised and justified, particularly at a time when Welsh Government’s budget is under such pressure, the comments made by Mike Hedges MS will be infuriating for Welsh farmers to hear.

“Mr Hedges will be well aware of the budgetary pressures Welsh Government is currently subject to and he must surely recognise that the axe has already fallen heavily on the agricultural sector’s finances in recent times.

“The rural affairs budget was subject to a 7.8 per cent in-year cut in October in a ‘reprioritisation’ of the budget to support front line services, while Welsh Government’s draft budget announcement last month forecast a further 10.5 per cent cut in funding to the rural affairs portfolio. On each occasion the rural affairs budget has been subject to the largest cut in funding in percentage terms.

“Perhaps where Mr Hedges’s comments are most fundamentally flawed is that he hasn’t grasped that this funding is instrumental in supporting food production to feed people in Wales and beyond.

“Wales needs thriving farm businesses to keep producing food to feed everyone in society and financial stability is an important component in enabling that to happen.

“We remain grateful to the rural affairs minister for prioritising the Basic Payment Scheme, which provides much-needed stability to Welsh farming businesses at a turbulent time and is fundamental in supporting the production of food.”