Welsh Government agricultural support scheme branded ‘absolute joke’ by farmer
A new Welsh Government interim agricultural support scheme has been branded an “absolute joke” by a Welsh farmer who is set to lose £30k a year in subsidies.
Meic Dolwen owns a beef and sheep farm in the Berwyn mountains just south of Llangollen. He says the Welsh Government “should bow their heads in shame” over the Habitat Wales Scheme which is causing “mental strain” on farmers.
The new payment scheme intends to bridge the gap between previous Glastir contracts which ended in December and the new Sustainable Farming Scheme which will be rolled out in 2025.
It intends to give all farmers in Wales the opportunity to apply for support to protect habitat land and contribute to the Welsh Government’s climate change and biodiversity commitments.
There are around 17,000 registered farms in Wales and 3000 of them were previous Glastir contract holders.
Meic told us he had put in an expression of interest for the Habitat Scheme with his productive silage fields withdrawn from the application.
Silage ground is a type of fodder made from green foliage crops which can be fed to cud chewing animals such as cattle and sheep.
However, the beef and sheep farmer said he was told his silage fields would be put back into the scheme – meaning he wouldn’t be allowed to plough them.
Meic said: “If we do this the only thing we will be able to do with those fields is plant with trees as ploughing will not be allowed, this scheme is an absolute joke and the mental strain the Welsh Government is putting on farmers is ridiculous.”
The farmer said he would have no choice but to withdraw his application which would be a loss for wildlife and biodiversity in Wales.
He said: “The people in charge should bow their heads in shame as to what they are doing to the environment, they have had good schemes in the past with a lot of good work done.
“The incompetence shown by these idiots is off the scale, let us farm and look after our farms, stop chopping and changing the schemes you have as they have worked well.”
Meic’s farm was previously organic but his payment was cut by 30% making it no longer viable because of the extra costs associated with organic faming.
Between this and the loss from his previous Glastir payments, Meic is set to lose £30,000 a year in subsidies.
Shadow Minister for Rural Affairs, Samuel Kurtz MS says the Habitat Wales Scheme has been “fraught with issues” since it was rolled out.
Speaking to Nation.Cymru he said: “From conversations I’ve had with farmers, Meic’s experience of applying for the Habitat Wales Scheme is sadly all too common. He speaks from the heart and out of frustration with the system.
“The Habitat Wales Scheme has been fraught with issues since its inception, and it is our farmers that are missing out due to its poor design, slashed funding, and its stuttering start. This scheme’s shortcomings only add to the feelings of the sector that farmers and farming are under attack by this Welsh Government.
“These issues with the Scheme could have been avoided if the Welsh Government had only listened to the industry. Farmers are best placed to say how and what schemes will work, and ignoring their concerns has only widened the gulf between the Welsh Government and Wales’ farmers and food producers, leaving their relationship in a precarious position.”
The Welsh Government said that when submitting an expression of interest for the Habitat Wales Scheme, famers have the option to remove areas used for silage “where exceptional circumstances can be demonstrated.”
A spokesperson said: “Leaving the EU meant continuing with previous EU funded schemes was not an option.
“Farmers asked us for an interim scheme until the start of the Sustainable Farming Scheme. We have listened and have delivered, while engaging regularly with the unions and others in this challenging financial context. The Habitat Wales scheme supports areas previously in Glastir as well as land identified as habitat from published datasets on DataMapWales.
“When submitting an expression of interest, applicants could remove improved fields, such as areas used for silage, where exceptional circumstances could be demonstrated.
“Receiving over 3,200 applications for Habitat Wales is a positive reminder farmers want to farm in partnership with nature. Subject to contracts being accepted, we should be bringing a greater area of habitat land under management during 2024, than we had under Glastir Advanced.”
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