Welsh green schemes funding inadequate
By Robert Davies
FUNDING for Tir Gofal, the new all-Wales agri-environment scheme launched this week, has been denounced as inadequate by farming leaders.
John Menon, chairman of the Farmers Union of Wales land use committee, said the union was fully committed to Tir Gofal, but the £12.4 million budget for the first three years was inadequate.
At least 23% of the money would be swallowed up by administrative costs.
Over 36 months, only 1800 farmers could expect to get contracts, compared with the 3300 total predicted when the scheme was first announced.
NFU spokesman Keith Jones conceded that Welsh farmers welcomed most of the schemes provisions, but warned that the level of funding would mean disappointment for many who were anxious to do even more to protect and enhance the environment.
Launching the scheme at Llysfasi College, Clwyd, Welsh Secretary Alun Michael defended what he said was “a massive commitment” to environmentally sensitive farming. In 2001-02, Welsh spending on agri-environment schemes would total £18.4m/year compared with £9.8m in 1997/98. He expected the money to cover 600 new all-farm agreements/year each worth about £5000.
Applications could be made between 6 April and 7 May, farm visits would begin in early June and management payments should start in 2001/02.
Successful applicants entering 410ha (1013 acres) of land, the upper area limit, will receive the maximum whole farm payment of £3000/year. A mix of additional mandatory and optional habitat management agreements, capital works like traditional field boundary maintenance, and providing permissive access could further boost annual payments.
For making and maintaining a new footpath a farmer would be paid £150 plus 15p/m/year, while £500/farm/year was available for offering access for educational purposes.