Wales’ rural affairs minister has been accused of being ‘headstrong’ for ignoring pleas to delay the implementation of the Glastir land management scheme.
On Tuesday (16 March), Elin Jones reaffirmed her commitment to introducing Glastir from the 1 January 2012.
The minister had been announcing a major tree planting programme to form part of Glastir but the news was overshadowed by anger at her unwillingness to delay the scheme.
Richard Vaughan, chairman of the Farmers’ Union of Wales’ land use and parliamentary committee, accused her of not listening to farmers by pushing the scheme through.
“I cannot understand why the minister is being so headstrong,” he said. “Farmers made their concerns clear at a recent inquiry but she seems to be ignoring everything that was said which makes the inquiry a complete waste of taxpayers money.”
What concerns unions is that the details of Glastir are still unclear and this has left farmers confused about how they will qualify and their payment entitlements.
Ed Bailey, president of NFU Cymru, said that many questions still needed answering.
“We are massively concerned about details within the scheme but surprisingly the Minister seems to regard this as more of a challenge than a problem,” he said.
But Elin Jones dismissed suggestions that the Assembly Government is rushing the implementation of Glastir before the detail has been properly considered.
“A considerable amount of information on Glastir is now available on the Assembly Government website,” she said.
“To date, 34 publicised training events have been held across Wales during February and March and were attended by more than 2000 members of the farming community. More events are planned and will be delivered between now and May and I will ensure that information continues to be readily available and easily accessible.”
One detail that she did make clear on Tuesday was her intention to expand the area of woodland in Wales by 100,000ha over the next 20 years.
Through Glastir, farmers would receive a capital grant to establish permanent woodland on lower grade agricultural land, together with annual maintenance and income foregone payments for up to 15 years after planting. The woodlands created would become “carbon sinks”.
Expanding woodland is one of the recommendations made by an independent group set up by Elin Jones to examine the options available to farming to address issues associated with agriculture and green house gas emissions.