Farmers to 'lose out' under Glastir, claims NFU Cymru

The Welsh countryside (generic)
Image caption Glastir is replacing five agri-environment schemes next year

Farmers in Wales on poorer quality land are to lose part of their subsidies under a new environment management scheme, according to a union.

NFU Cymru said farmers who currently qualified for less favoured area (LFA) payments would lose the 20% bonus under the single-tier Glastir programme.

Around 80% of land in Wales is classed as LFA, often steep with thin soil and heavy rainfall.

The Welsh Government said LFA farmers would not lose money under the changes.

At the moment, every farmer in Wales qualifies for a land subsidy of £28 per hectare, but those in LFAs receive 20% (£5.60) on top, making their standard entry level subsidy worth £33.60 per hectare.

NFU Cymru said under a new agreement the subsidy rate would increase to £34 per hectare for all farmers in a single-tier scheme, and those in LFAs would no longer receive an additional 20%.

The union was heavily critical of the decision, insisting farmers on poor land had endured increased costs in recent years and deserved extra help.

Land management

NFU Cymru said recommendations by the Glastir Independent Review Group (GIRG) to increase the land subsidy had been approved by the European Commission.

Glastir, which replaces five different land management projects next year, will see farmers paid to protect the environment.

NFU Cymru president Ed Bailey said: "The Glastir agri-environment scheme from the very outset has been based on shifting sands.

"It has taken Welsh Government two and a half years to appreciate that a differential in favour of the 80% of Wales designated as less favoured is not possible.

"Just over a week ago at a meeting with the Deputy Minister Alun Davies AM, I raised my concerns over Glastir and was advised that only 'I's needed to be dotted and 'T's crossed.

"One week on, we find a fundamental change to the scheme. Frankly, I feel farmers have been duped.

"They will be confused and frustrated by another raft of changes. Change has been the only common theme since the scheme was first announced."

He said farmers would have just two weeks to decide if they were to proceed with their Glastir application in light of the changes.

Reacting to Mr Bailey's comments, a Welsh Government spokesperson said: "The issue raised by the NFU in relation to LFA and non-LFA payments applies to Glastir only and LFA farmers will not lose out as a result of this decision."

'Welcome news'

Meanwhile, deputy Minister for Agriculture, Alun Davies, said new options under the Glastir scheme would be introduced straight away rather than next spring.

"This is very welcome news for farmers across Wales," he said.

"These changes were recommended by the independent review group and we have been negotiating with the European Commission to allow us to implement them.

"I am committed to working with the industry to make sure that Glastir works for farmers and the changes I have announced today are proof of that."

But opposition parties are concerned that farmers in LFAs will lose out.

Conservative shadow Minister for rural affairs, Antoinette Sandbach AM, said: "I am shocked at the underhanded way the Welsh Government has treated farmers, promising support for the LFA and then doing away with it at the last minute."

Kirsty Williams, leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, said this was a "stab through the heart for many farmers and farming communities across Wales".

Plaid Cymru's rural affairs spokesman Llyr Huws Gruffydd said: "This news means that Wales will not now have a subsidy for farms in the LFA, and that situation cannot be right."

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites