While welcoming Thursday’s Welsh Government announcement on the opening of a second window for the Wales-based Sustainable Production Grant Scheme, NFU Cymru said the opportunities to access new support mechanisms remained limited.
“The reality is that we are now two years into the new budgetary period for the Rural Development Programme and it is over two years since the Welsh Government decision to transfer the 15 per cent maximum amount possible from Pillar 1 to Pillar 2 – a decision unique in Europe,” said union president, Stephen James.
“Farmers in Wales will rightly feel that so far RDP investment priorities have been limited for the farming sector and are increasingly concerned that opportunities to access new support mechanisms are restricted.
“It is time the Welsh Government recognised that RDP implementation has to be set in the context of the extremely challenging market conditions experienced during the past 12 months.
“The first expression of interest window for the Sustainable Production Grant Scheme, launched last July, received a budget allocation of £2m and supported just a dozen farmers.
“The new second window has a call of £6m, so is likely to support tens of farmers. But in our view this needs to support thousands of farmers, rather than a small few, if the RDP is to realise our shared ambition of transformational change,” added Mr James.
“Strategic initiatives which deliver integrated on-farm investment support and advice, allowing widespread uptake, provide the strongest opportunity to deliver this.”
He said NFU Cymru welcomed the commitment to working with industry stakeholders to deliver strategic initiatives in the coming months and “encouraged” that a Glastir small grant scheme would be launched this year.
It would allow many more farmers to undertake capital works that delivered environmental benefits and the opportunity to extend the Glastir commons contracts until December 2019 was also welcome.
“But we are disappointed that the Welsh Government has opted not to open a window for Glastir entry for 2017,” added Mr James.
“This will be particularly concerning for the 1,600 or so Glastir participants with contracts ending at the end of this year.”