The funding levels of agri-environment schemes in Wales could be cut by 20% under Welsh Government proposals.
Deputy farming minister, Alun Davies, said he wants the agri-environment slice of Rural Development Plan funding to be reduced to 60% from its current level of 80%.
It follows a poor uptake by farmers of the new Glastir scheme but NFU Cymru insists this is due to bureaucracy and the practicalities of implementing the scheme at a farm level.
Its president, Ed Bailey, said farmers in Wales had historically embraced and adopted higher levels of environmental care voluntarily on their farms.
“We feel the Minister has been premature in his statement. Surely the Glastir stocktake should be completed first and take-up of the revised scheme considered before a decision is made to cut the budget,’’ said Mr Bailey.
In contrast one of Mr Davies’ fellow ministers, Environment Minister, John Griffiths, had proposed a new approach to natural resource management in Wales, and suggested that farmers and land managers should be paid for the delivery of environmental outcomes.
Mr Bailey said NFU Cymru agreed with this view and had always argued that compensating farmers for environmental gains based on ‘income foregone’ did not recognise the public goods farmers deliver through agri-environment schemes.
“But while one Government department appears to be concurring with our view that farmers are under-rewarded for their environmental management, at the same time another is proposing to reduce the focus on agri-environmental measures by 20%,’’ he said. “Is this really a joined-up Government approach?’’
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