Dozens of Welsh farmers awarded contracts worth up to £5,000 to lay hedges and make other environmental improvements have had those agreements snatched back by the Welsh government after a technical blunder.
Up to £1.5m had been earmarked under the Glastir Small Grants Scheme to encourage farmers to embark on capital projects that would increase biodiversity and reduce carbon emissions.
But on Wednesday (26 October) 112 of the contract offers were suddenly withdrawn, with the government admitting that they had been issued in error because of a “technical issue”.
One of the farmers involved, John Crimes, who discovered his offer had been withdrawn only when he logged on to Rural Payments Wales Online, said it was unacceptable.
Mr Crimes runs a beef enterprise at Mydroilyn in Ceredigion and is also a director of Cara Wales. He said his offer was posted online on 20 October and withdrawn six days later.
Eight of his clients were also caught out by the mistake. “One of my clients was issued with a contract offer on October 4 for hedgelaying and installing an extra water trough and associated pipework and he had accepted that contract and gone as far as ordering the materials. He has now been told that the project doesn’t meet the right criteria.
“It’s completely unacceptable. If farmers make mistakes on their single payment forms, they are penalised financially. But when it’s the government making a mistake, and a major one at that, there is no recompense for the farmer.’’
Farmers were urged to apply for funding under a number of themes, including water, carbon and landscape and pollinators. The first window of funding focused on carbon.
‘Criteria not met’
A Welsh government spokesman said the offers had been withdrawn because the proposals from the farmers did not meet all the eligibility criteria under the carbon emissions reduction requirements.
The government insisted that farmers were already aware from their selection outcome letter not to expect a contract, but the farmers said it contained only information about the criteria for eligibility.
It said there were 112 contracts in total (94 Customer Reference Numbers) issued in error.
“These farmers can reapply for the upcoming water theme, where different scoring/objectives will be used, giving these farmers potentially a better chance of getting selected in the next window,” added the spokesman.