Welsh agri-environment schemes to destroy farm incomes, farmers warn

The Welsh assembly’s proposed all-embracing Glastir agri-environment scheme could decimate farm incomes, organic farmers have warned.

Graig Producers, the marketing group that represents 350 organic farmers in Wales, has warned that the plan to replace existing schemes needs a complete rethink.

Group co-founder and director Nigel Elgar said Glastir could devestate farm incomes and put wildlife at risk.

He claimed that at Cannon Farm, his 390ha Montgomeryshire beef and sheep unit, the payments received under the Tir Mynydd and Tir Gofal schemes would be cut by 47%.

“The net effect will be to wipe out all of the profits of my farm business,” said Mr Elgar.

“While I am personally very committed to both organic farming and to environmental stewardship schemes, I also need to run a viable farm business.”

Wildlife habitats set aside and nurtured could be at risk as land management changed to increase income.

“What a waste of 10 years’ work,” he added.

Another Graig Producers member said support payments for his Brecon Beacons farm would plummet 83% to £2688, a flat-rate payment of £28/ha plus a 20% top-up as a precious recipient of Tir Mynydd cash.

Elin Jones, Welsh assembly rural affairs minister, said speculation about the level of Glastir payments was premature.

She urged organic farmers to wait until the scheme’s operational arrangements and funding streams were announced.

“The detail is currently being drawn up in extensive engagement with farming and countryside interests, including Organic Centre Wales,” Ms Jones insisted.

“It is my intention that transition into Glastir should ensure that, wherever possible, the environmental benefits already delivered through considerable investment both by government and farmers in previous schemes are maintained.

“All holdings certified as wholly organic will be eligible for a 50% reduction on the points required to enter the scheme in recognition of the environmental benefits derived from their organic status.”

Ms Jones also emphasised that the planned payment rate in less favoured areas would be £33.60/ha. Extra support would also be available to farmers who had land of high biodiversity value.

“As no final decision on the allocation and allocation of funds for the targeted level of Glastir has been made, it is premature to conclude that any work has been wasted.”

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