Significant flaws have been identified in Wales’ agri-environment land management scheme.
According to a 63-page report published by the Wales Audit Office on 11 September, the Welsh government had set unrealistic targets on the number of farmers who would sign up to Glastir.
Although a funding pot of £119m is in place until the end of 2015, payments of just £22m had been made by the end of last year.
NFU Cymru insisted that the reason for the lower than anticipated take-up was the complexity of the application process for Glastir Entry and a perceived lack of transparency for the process of applying for Glastir Advanced.
Auditor general Huw Vaughan Thomas has now issued the Welsh government with a series of recommended improvements.
He wants targets set which are “challenging but achievable”, to encourage more landowners to apply.
Barriers to online-only applications should be removed, he added.
In addition, Mr Vaughan Thomas recommends the following:
• Ensuring landowners commit to changing land management practices in return for funding
• Identify and intervene farms when farms are polluting the wider water supply
• Clarify the expectations of Glastir and find a way of measuring the degree of success
• Routinely monitor the administration costs of the scheme.
The Welsh government has accepted that measures of success need to be set and online applications increased.
A spokesperson said the Welsh government “broadly welcomed” the report. “We accept many of the observations in the report, particularly the recommendation to set measurable targets for the scheme and to review the success of the transition to online applications.”
NFU Cymru president, Stephen James, suggested that complexity and a lack of reward did not encourage participation.
“The administrative burden placed on farmers participating in the scheme with the requirement to complete stocking records and activity diaries is also significant and all too often farmers, who are running commercial enterprises and who view food production as their primary goal, simply do not feel that the scheme offers them sufficient financial reward for their effort,” he said.