It could be several years before some farmers reap any financial benefit from Wales’ new agri-environment scheme because the level of investment they must make to join Glastir is exceeding their payments.
The basic scheme, Glastir Entry, is available to all farmers who can accumulate sufficient points from a list of options including the creation of wildlife corridors and hedges.
But for farmers like Emyr Jones, whose points total fell short, significant investment is needed to qualify for membership.
“It has been impossible to go into Glastir without spending money on the farm,” said Mr Jones, who runs a beef and sheep farm at Bala.
“I am sure that the majority of farmers who have been able to go into the scheme will spend more money in the first few years than they will get back.”
He added: “We have been able to get points through double fencing and tree planting and there is no money towards that work.”
Mr Jones has also planted root crops for the first time and although he accepts this is winter feed for his lambs it simply replaced 15 acres of productive silage and grazing land.
Mr Jones, who is president of the Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW), is in his first year of Glastir.
“We haven’t received any payments yet; it has cost us money. We only joined because we lost Tir Mynydd and we needed an income from somewhere.
“That will be the case further down the line but it certainly isn’t now.”
He urged the Welsh government to be more flexible on the timescale it sets farmers to deliver projects such as fencing.
“Some farmers whose agreements started in January had to do the work before the end of March but the weather was so bad last year that it was a real struggle to achieve this,” he said.
“Glastir needs to be more flexible to allow farmers to do the work when they have the time. It would be much easier to get it done in August or September when there is less work with the animals instead of trying to get fencing work done at lambing and calving time or when the weather is poor.”
A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “Over 2,200 Welsh farmers are now delivering environmental benefits through the Glastir scheme with over 2,000 more farmers wanting to join the scheme. Farmers are also getting a good deal as reimbursement rates in Glastir are considerably higher than they were under previous agri-environment schemes.
“In terms of timescales, the farmer has two calendar years to complete the work. This should be ample time for them to source materials and contractors, choose the right time of year to carry out the work and to use their first year’s payment toward the cost of the capital works, if necessary. We think this level of flexibility is more than fair.
“The Glastir scheme, like all programmes funded by the European taxpayer, must comply with European Commission rules. This means that payments made to farmers as part of the Glastir scheme can only compensate them for costs incurred, through the use of materials or labour, and income foregone as a result of the farmers carrying out the options they choose.”
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