WALES will not follow Scotland's example and make farming support payments available early, and will instead launch a new loan scheme helping farmers cover living costs, it has been announced.

Cash handed out through the European Union's Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) is paid between December and June. But farming unions have called on the Welsh Government, which administers the scheme in Wales, to arrange for payments to be earlier in the year to cover winter costs.

The Scottish Government has already agreed to make payments available from October.

But, instead, energy, planning and rural affairs secretary Lesley Griffiths has announced the Welsh Government will be donating £500,000 to a number of farming charities, to be used as short-term loans to farmers who do not receive BPS payments straight away.

“In response to the period of exceptionally hot and dry weather earlier this summer, I brought together a range of stakeholders at the Royal Welsh Agriculture Show to discuss the action government and the industry might take collectively to mitigate the issues farmers are facing," she said.

“Whilst the weather and immediate forage situation has improved, I remain concerned about the medium and longer term cost and fodder availability implications for farm businesses.

"In recognition of the current exceptional circumstances, I have taken the decision to make available a loan facility to farm businesses later this year."

Ms Griffiths added she had decided against bringing forward payments as it "will not resolve the immediate or longer term implications of the exceptional weather conditions and it would create an unfortunate disparity between businesses in terms of some receiving BPS payments while others would not".

“The farming unions themselves recognise this position would be unfair and create further problems," she said. "Therefore, the introduction of a loan scheme is a better and fairer solution to the difficult circumstances affecting farm businesses this year.

“In the short term, I am acutely aware of the human impact on farming families. I have therefore asked my officials to work closely with the agricultural charities, to decide how best we can support their work."

Charity the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) Cymru welcomed the announcement.

Director Rebecca Williams said: “We are aware of the pressure this summer’s dry conditions have exerted on many farms, having monitored the issue and having offered advice to members.

"We welcome the loan facility that has been created for the minority of farm businesses where BPS payments are not able to be made in December.

"This addition of a loan facility means that all farmers can plan with certainty knowing that there will be income available in December."

But Welsh Conservative shadow rural affairs secretary Andrew RT Davies slammed the Welsh Government's refusal to bring the payment period forward.

Mr Davies, who is himself a farmer, said: “This is a disgraceful decision from the Welsh Labour Government and shows how out of touch they are with the reality on the ground.

“Farmers have been paying throughout the summer for fodder which has become very expensive and has damaged cash flow.

“The cabinet secretary’s Labour colleagues in Scotland criticised the SNP for not going far enough, however, in Wales, Labour are not even going to meet anywhere near what is proposed in Scotland.

“And being told to wait until December will add considerable strain on an already difficult position for the farming industry and rural economy across Wales.

“I urge the cabinet secretary and her officials to listen to farmers and reconsider this ill-thought-out decision.”

Full details on the new loan scheme will be available from Rural Payment Wales in the autumn.