Committee calls for clarity over agri-environment scheme

THE Welsh Assembly Government is being taken to task by members of a key all-party Assembly sub committee and asked to clarify several outstanding issues before introducing its groundbreaking Glastir agri-environment scheme.

The call comes today (Wednesday, March 3) in a letter from Rhodri Glyn Thomas, chairman of the Assembly’s Rural Development Sub-committee, which has been sent to Rural Affairs Minister, Elin Jones.

Next week she is expected to announce further details of the pioneering but controversial land management scheme set to replace the existing Tir Mynydd, Tir Gofal, Tir Cynnal, Organic Farming and Woodland Grant schemes in Wales from 2012.

The sub-committee’s call follows a short inquiry which took in evidence from farmers, farming unions and other agriculture organisations.

As well as expressing concerns about the lack of information available regarding the new scheme, the letter identifies five key issues the AMs believe must be addressed before it can be implemented.

First and foremost they want Glastir to be made more accessible and for the points system needed to access the scheme to be re-assessed.

In particular, the inquiry heard that farmers who had already carried out work to meet criteria in previous land management schemes, such as Tir Gofal, were unsure of whether they would amass the necessary points to qualify for the new programme.

It also recommends a rethink of the decision not to provide project officer support for the entry-level scheme and to look again at whether Assembly divisional offices have the capacity to cope with the increased demand for support.

The committee also wants an explanation over the decision to end dual land use payments in Wales, when they are to continue in England and Scotland, and for an assessment to be carried out on the impact of the change on landowners and tenants in Wales.

Another concern is the lack of a capital works element in the entry-level Glastir scheme and the committee is calling for a review such plans.

“It became increasingly clear to the committee that there is a high level of concern among farmers and other stakeholders regarding the new Glastir scheme and that is why we decided to look at it in greater detail,” says Rhodri Glyn Thomas, in his letter.

“The overwhelming opinion we heard at our public meeting in Dolgellau was that there remains much uncertainty about the details of the new scheme and that is why we have decided to write to the Minister highlighting these issues which we believe need to be addressed before Glastir can be introduced.

“We look forward very much to a response from the Minister next week and would urge her to take our concerns on board as she finalises the details of the scheme.”

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