‘Welsh green scheme rules need clarifying’

Welsh farmers could have £35m of support payments withheld or confiscated unless rules on dual claims for farmland are clarified ahead of the Glastir scheme’s introduction in 2012.

With historic agri-environmental scheme agreements such as Tir Gofal and Tir Cynnal coming to an end for individual producers, there will be a transition period before the Glastir scheme begins, said Ross Murray, Country Land and Business Association Wales chairman.

But producers keen to avoid a support payment vacuum are unsure whether dual claims made on farmland – for example, where a tenant claims the SFP and landowner claims an agri-environmental payment – would be called into question by EU auditors.

Although dual use is a concept accepted widely in UK land tenure, EU bureaucrats are said not to understand how two parties can effectively use the same piece of land consecutively, according to Mr Murray.

“The assembly fears EU auditors may question these agreements. We fear about £35m could be lost over two years if EU auditors blow the whistle,” he said.

Ministers are being urged to clarify the position for producers waiting to sign up to transition agreements who fear “elephant traps” could be set due to the confusion.

The CLA Wales suggests producers in England and Scotland are unaffected as DEFRA and Scottish ministers have remained tight-lipped on the subject.

Other queries have arisen. Oswestry-based farmers Jan and Robin Edwards rely on Tir Mynydd payments for the viability of the family’s 400ha upland farm but also run a successful motocross developed originally to quash illegal riders.

“Questions remain whether farms that have diversified would be eligible for the (Glastir) scheme,” said Mr Murray.