Deep-seated concerns over the Wales-based Glastir agri-environmental scheme has brought an NFU Cymru call for the Welsh Government to re-affirm its commitment to an entry level element funded via the new Wales Rural Development Programme.
The union says there was not an application window during 2015 and the dates for a 2016 application window have not been confirmed for 2017 entry -- despite the fact that the contracts for over 1,500 farmers will be ending later this year.
“We have long argued for an entry level scheme which offers farmers in Wales the opportunity to participate irrespective of location, scale or farm enterprise type,” Hedd Pugh, the union’s rural affairs board chairman, said today (Monday, February 8).
“Glastir was originally developed to be accessible to all farmers in Wales through the entry level - but we are concerned that the Welsh Government appears to be taking forward a more selective approach to supporting new applicants.
“Taken together with those who have contracts coming to an end means access to an entry level scheme may no longer be offered,” he added.
“This is most disappointing in the context of the Welsh Government’s decision to transfer the 15 per cent maximum amount possible from Pillar one to Pillar two in Wales – a decision unique in Europe.
“This combined with the uncertainty surrounding the lack of commitment to renew existing entry level contracts flies in the face of scheme monitoring and the need for a long-term commitment if its purposes are to be fully realised.
“Farmers across all sectors have experienced extremely challenging market conditions during the past 12 months,” added Mr Pugh.
“We are calling on the Welsh Government to make clear its commitment to an entry level scheme as soon as possible to allow farm businesses to consider the full range of options available and to allow focused business planning.”