Complaints from farmers prompt Tir Gofal review
By Robert Davies
A FULL review of Tir Gofal, the Welsh whole farm agri-environment scheme, is to be carried out after complaints from farmers.
Carwyn Jones, the Welsh Assemblys minister for rural affairs, acknowledges that he needs to have a good look at the structure of the scheme before it is renewed in April 2001. During a Farmers Union of Wales visit to Ty Ddu, a Monmouthshire farm that failed to qualify for Tir Gofal, he admitted that some farms that should be eligible were missing out.
Cash was going to some big extensively managed units where there was no pressure on the environment, and small hobby farms. It should go to help hard-pressed, medium-sized producers who did not farm intensively, but made their land "sweat a bit" to make a living.
"Those who should benefit are those struggling and not those who are already there," said Mr Jones. "I have received a number of complaints about current arrangements, which have EU approval until April, and I will look into every one." Ruth Watkins, who farms Ty Ddu with husband Malcolm, told the minister that he must also look at the way the environmental scheme conflicted with the Organic Farming Scheme. Because their unit was in organic conversion they relied heavily on clover to keep grassland productive and themselves in business. But this reduced their chances of getting into Tir Gofal.
She showed him a letter received after an inspection that described land that received no inorganic fertilisers or sprays as "improved".
"While Tir Gofal aims to reduce pasture productivity and stocking rates it is difficult to dovetail the two prescriptions for farming. It was supposed to be the scheme that would help all Welsh farmers, but the reality appears to be that the ones it assists are those that are already doing very well as far as the environment is concerned."
If the government and Welsh Assembly wanted to encourage viable and sustainable farming using environmentally friendly methods it was illogical to have two such incompatible schemes. *