The Farmers Union of Wales has reacted angrily to the announcement that there will not be an entry-level agri-environment scheme application round in 2016, describing the decision as a ’betrayal’ of the commitments which underpinned the introduction of the Glastir scheme.
Launching details of some of the schemes being included under the new Wales Rural Development Programme, Food and Farming Deputy Minister, Rebecca Evans, announced there would not be a Glastir Entry application round this year and that funding would be re-directed away from broad-based whole farm schemes.
“Our 2016 Welsh Assembly election manifesto launched in November called for all farmers to continue to have access to Glastir Entry, so this decision comes as a severe blow for the industry,” said Nick Fenwick, the union’s head of policy.
“We bitterly opposed the Welsh Government’s decision to remove £25 million from Wales’ disadvantaged areas by abandoning the Tir Mynydd LFA scheme.
“That money was effectively diverted to the Glastir agri-environment scheme, along with a promise that all farmers throughout Wales would be able to access the scheme.
“It appears that that principle has now been reneged upon,” he added.
About 1,600 farmers would be left high and dry from 2017 as their Glastir Entry contracts were due to end in December 2016, with a further 3,000 or so likely to be affected in subsequent years if the policy remained in place.
While other elements of the Rural Development Programme were to be welcomed, none came close to meeting the original commitment to an all-Wales entry level agri-environment scheme which would be accessible to all.
“The decision to abandon payments for disadvantaged areas placed Welsh farmers at a major disadvantage compared with our main competitors in other parts of the UK and EU.
“Now it seems the quid pro quo offered at the time - an agri-environment scheme which would be open to all – has also been abandoned at a time when farm incomes are on the floor.”
The decision to scrap disadvantaged area payments, in the form of Tir Mynydd, effectively replaced a simple and cheap to administer compensatory scheme with the hugely complex and costly Glastir agri-environment scheme, said Dr Fenwick.
“Given the state of Welsh farm incomes, we desperately need to see investment and a return to the sort of compensatory scheme which benefits our competitors across the EU.”