Agri-environment scheme row leaves 1600 farmers in limbo

The applications of hundreds of Welsh farmers for agri-environment scheme contracts and organic farming conversion grants have been frozen.

A continuing row over Tir Mynydd scheme payments to less favoured area farmers means that no new money will be available until the Welsh Assembly’s agricultural budget is agreed.

Following industry and political opposition to plans to cut Tir Mynydd spending by one third Carwyn Jones, the Wales Assembly’s rural affairs minister, handed responsibility for prioritising elements of the agricultural budget to the Environment, Planning and Countryside Committee.

This left in limbo 1600 applicants for the Tir Gofal agri-environment scheme and 60 farmers planning to go organic.

Rhian Nowell-Phillips, a senior Farmers Union of Wales policy adviser, said the union believed that EU rules would have allowed the minister to approve and pay new organic conversion grants and agri-environment contracts, even though the agricultural budget had not been approved.


“There should be no problems with schemes that were in existence before the budget row started,” said Ms Nowell-Phillips.

“But the minister has decided to show his determination to reduce spending on Tir Mynydd this way, which makes it vital that the committee re-prioritises the agricultural budget line as soon as possible.”

One tenant farmer said he believed that the freeze on new organic conversion grants could put him out of business.

His application was approved in December.

But he fears that he might not get any money in time to save the 100 milkers he runs at Ruabon in Clwyd.

“I cannot go on producing milk for 18p/litre and bear the costs of organic conversion,” he claimed. “I believed that the Welsh Assembly was truly committed to organic farming, but it seems I was wrong.”

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