Farmers voice ‘grave concerns’ at ending of Glastir land management scheme
Farmers’ leaders have raised grave concerns following the announcement earlier today by the Welsh Government that mainstream Glastir contracts will not be extended beyond December this year.
Glastir is a sustainable land management scheme which was introduced in 2013 and will pay out over £30 million to farmers this year.
The Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) has said the government’s announcement that that Glastir Advanced, Glastir Commons and Glastir Organic contracts would not be extended will cause major concerns across the industry both in terms of the implications for farm businesses and the practicalities of designing and introducing a new replacement scheme.
Farmers have been told they will be offered the option to sign up to a new 12 month whole farm scheme focussing on habitat land.
FUW President Ian Rickman said: “Wales currently has some 3,000 farms in these environmental agreements that will now come to an end in a few months’ time.
“Some of those have been in such agreements for thirty years, and all will have changed their farming practices and stock numbers to cope with the scheme rules.
“As such, this announcement will raise grave concerns for thousands of farming families, not only in terms of their financial viability but also with regard to how the Welsh Government will implement such a scheme over such a short period of time.”
There are currently some 2,100 Glastir Advanced contract holders and more than 450 Glastir Organic contract holders, as well as 180 Glastir common land agreements involving vast numbers of commoners. It’s understood that more than 17,000 Welsh farmers may be eligible to apply for the new interim scheme this autumn.
Mr Rickman also expressed significant disappointment that the farming industry had been excluded from discussions on the cancellation of Glastir contracts and the design and introduction of a new interim scheme.
“With all previous schemes the FUW and other key representatives have been involved in the design process for years, yet in this case, despite us having repeatedly raised questions regarding the future of Glastir since December, there has been no such codesign.”
While the FUW understands the budgetary pressures on the rural development budget, Mr Rickman said that given the Welsh Government’s stated commitment to sustainable farming, soon to be enshrined in Wales’ first Agriculture Act, it was essential that the new interim scheme received at least as much funding as the schemes it would replace.
“We also sympathise with the Welsh Government over the pressures that UK Government cuts to our farm and rural development budget have caused.
“In successive announcements from December 2019, the UK Government announced cuts which add up to losses of more than £200 million for Welsh farmers and rural development.
“This was a complete betrayal of the promises made in the run up to the Brexit referendum and the 2019 Conservative manifesto, and we continue to maintain that that money and our future budgets should be restored to what they would have been had we remained members of the EU,” added Mr Rickman.
Announcing the new interim scheme, Minister for Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths said: Through Glastir, we have supported farmers to maintain and enhance habitat protection; we want to maintain this investment as we transition to the new Sustainable Farming Scheme.
“I’m pleased today to announce an interim agri-environment scheme to continue supporting farmers to protect valuable habitats ahead of the introduction of the SFS.
“It’s important we have a scheme to ensure the valuable gains made under Glastir are not lost, and we’re also able to encourage more farmers to take part.
“The Climate Change Committee recommended there should be no gap between the end of Glastir and the start of the SFS, and this is what we are delivering today.
“The interim scheme is an important step as we progress towards the Sustainable Farming Scheme which will support farmers to produce food sustainably at the same time as addressing the climate and nature emergencies. It paves the way towards the SFS and its Sustainable Land Management principles.”
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