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Farmers betrayed by Government failure to renew agri-environment scheme

The Farmers’ Union of Wales has reacted angrily to a Welsh Government announcement that there will not be an entry-level agri-environment scheme application round in 2016.

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The Farmers’ Union of Wales has reacted angrily to a Welsh Government 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.

Speaking at Thursday’s (February 11) Rural Development Programme 2014-2020 Start of Term Event in Swansea, Deputy Minister for Food and Farming Rebecca Evans told those present 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.

Speaking after the event, FUW Head of Policy, Nick Fenwick, said “Our 2016 Election Manifesto launched in November last year called for all farmers to continue to have access to Glastir Entry, so this decision comes as a severe blow for the industry.

“The FUW bitterly opposed the Welsh Government’s decision to remove £25 million from Wales’ disadvantaged areas by abandoning our 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.”

Dr Fenwick said that around 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.

He said that while other elements of the Rural Development Programme announced by the Deputy Minister, such as a small grants scheme, were welcome, 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.

“This decision was made at a time when the public funding available to administer such schemes was known to be falling. This was warned of by the FUW at the time, and the experience since has confirmed our fears to be true.

“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,” he added.

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