A potential funding lifeline has been restored for more than 500 farmers in Wales.
The Welsh government had said it would not be awarding new Glastir contracts from January 2017 because the EU referendum vote had cast doubt over who would pay successful applicants.
But that doubt has now been lifted. Wales’s rural affairs secretary, Lesley Griffiths, has said that an assurance on funding by the UK Treasury meant that applications approved before the autumn statement at the end of November would be funded for their lifetime.
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“In the case of Glastir Advanced agri-environment contracts, we consider this guarantee includes agreements submitted with my department that would, in the normal course of business, be formally signed in January 2017, to coincide with EU schedules,” the minister confirmed.
“On that basis I have instructed my officials to resume detailed contract negotiations with applicants.”
About 560 farmers had expressed an interest to join Glastir Advanced. A government spokesperson said all of these were being processed.
Glenda Thomas, of FWAG Cymru, said that with some of these farmers in line for annual management payments of up to £15,000 in addition to funding for capital works, Glastir was fundamental to the future of their businesses.
“The scale of payments varies considerably, but these farmers had been facing the prospect of no agri-environmental payments whatsoever. It is a relief that the Welsh government has reversed its decision,” she said.
Although the 2017 contracts will be funded for their duration, there is no guarantee that new contracts will be awarded beyond 2017.
Glastir Advanced is considered the lead agri-environment scheme performer in Europe, but the referendum vote has created “considerable uncertainty” for multi-year environmental programmes currently supported by EU, said the government spokesperson.
“The Welsh government has sought reassurances from the UK government that equivalent funding will be available to ensure such schemes can still be run after our exit from the EU, but no such guarantees have been received to date,” the spokesperson added.