Welsh Government announces new scheme to 'protect nature' on agricultural land

The interim agri-environment scheme to support protection of habitats on agriculture land is to be introduced from 1 January 2024. The application window for the scheme will open later this year

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Welsh Government announces new scheme to 'protect nature' on agricultural land

An agri-environment scheme to support the protection of habitats on agriculture land is to be introduced from 1 January 2024. It will be in place until the beginning of the Sustainable Farming Scheme in 2025, the Rural Affairs Minister, Lesley Griffiths has announced.

As the Welsh Government Rural Communities - Rural Development Programme ends, it is hoped it will provide an alternative support for all eligible farmers, including Glastir Advanced, Commons and Organic farmers when their contracts expire on 31 December 2023.

The application window for the scheme will open later this year with contracts commencing in January 2024 to ensure a ‘seamless transition' as Glastir closes in December 2023.

Budget

The Welsh Government said further details of the new scheme are to be made available following 'discussions with stakeholders.' The budget will be announced prior to the application window opening.

They said the new scheme ‘will enable more farmers to take part' and ‘protect habitat land' while also ensuring the ‘important gains' made by Glastir are maintained.

The Welsh Government said the ending of Glastir also means all farmers and land managers in Wales will be able to access ‘all of the available Rural Investment Schemes', a number of which will prepare them to enter Sustainable Farming Scheme ( SFS).

Currently, Glastir Advanced farmers are unable to apply to the Small Grants Environment scheme.

Habitat protection

The Minister for Rural Affairs said: "Through Glastir, we have supported farmers to maintain and enhance habitat protection; we want to maintain this investment as we transition to SFS.

"I am pleased today to announce an interim agri-environment scheme to continue supporting farmers to protect valuable habitats ahead of the introduction of the SFS.

"It is important we have a scheme to ensure the valuable gains made under Glastir are not lost, and we are also able to encourage more farmers to take part.

Climate change

"The Climate Change Committee recommended there should be no gap between the end of Glastir and the start of the SFS, and this is what we are delivering."

Ms Griffiths said the interim scheme ‘is an important step' as the industry progresses towards SFS which will ‘support farmers to produce sustainably at the same time as addressing the climate and nature emergencies'.

"It paves the way towards the SFS and its Sustainable Land Management principles," she added.

FUW reaction

Responding to the announcement, FUW President Ian Rickman said:

"Wales currently has some 3,000 farms in these environmental agreements that will now come to an end in a few months time.

"Some of those have been in such agreements for thirty years, and all will have changed their farming practices and stock numbers to cope with the scheme rules.

"As such, this announcement will raise grave concerns for thousands of farming families, not only in terms of their financial viability but also with regard to how the Welsh Government will implement such a scheme over such a short period of time."

FUW said there are currently some 2,100 Glastir Advanced contract holders and more than 450 Glastir Organic contract holders, as well as 180 Glastir common land agreements involving vast numbers of commoners.

It is understood that more than 17,000 Welsh farmers may be eligible to apply for the new interim scheme this autumn.

Mr Rickman expressed 'significant disappointment' that the farming industry had been 'excluded from discussions on the cancellation of Glastir contracts and the design and introduction of a new interim scheme.'

"With all previous schemes the FUW and other key representatives have been involved in the design process for years, yet in this case, despite us having repeatedly raised questions regarding the future of Glastir since December, there has been no such co-design."

The FUW said it 'understands the budgetary pressures on the rural development budget' but said it was 'essential' that the new interim scheme 'received at least as much funding as the schemes it would replace.'

 

 

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