The Glastir scheme should be open to any farmer in Wales irrespective of locality or farm enterprise type. This message comes as part of NFU Cymru’s response to the Welsh Government’s consultation on proposed changes to the Glastir scheme under the next Rural Development Plan (RDP).
NFU Cymru’s Rural Affairs Board Chairman, Bernard Llewellyn, said, “We support a number of the proposals within the consultation. These include the removal of the requirement to join Glastir Entry before accessing other elements of the scheme; the introduction of a small grants scheme to fund the most beneficial activities outside of wider farm agreements and a part-farm scheme. We are however concerned with some of the other proposals, particularly the fact that the budget for the Glastir Entry element is expected to more than halve by 2020.
“Glastir was originally developed to be accessible to all farmers in Wales through the Entry level. However, Welsh Government proposals to keep the Entry level scheme open for now but to look to develop a more selective approach to supporting new applicants or extensions means that accessibility can no longer be guaranteed. There is a growing body of evidence, including the findings of the Glastir Monitoring and Evaluation Programme, which highlight the need for long-term commitment to interventions if outcomes are to be fully realised. This will not be the case where existing Glastir Entry contract holders are unable to secure contract renewals.”
Proposed measures aimed at supporting upland resilience include the introduction of minimum stocking rates to address under-grazing together with more flexibility in the stipulated stocking regimes to better reflect the traditional hill grazing pattern. Under proposals, enclosed land above the 400m line is to become a prioritised target area for the Advanced scheme and mixed grazing will be encouraged through support for infrastructure for livestock handling systems and the provision of insurance premium associated with the risks of managing cattle on unenclosed land parcels.
NFU Cymru LFA Board Chairman, John Owen said, “We welcome the fact that Welsh Government now recognises that under-grazing in upland situations, as stipulated in past agri-environment agreements, has led to detrimental environmental outcomes in some instances. This acknowledgement is long overdue as are measures to support mixed grazing in the uplands.
“We are, however, disappointed that the proposals for mixed grazing do not go far enough and, on their own, are unlikely to increase the proportion of cattle in the uplands. Overall, there is a need to recognise that payments for environmental goods and ecosystem services, delivered through the Glastir Scheme, are based on costs incurred and income foregone calculations. This must be supported by the introduction of a dedicated ANC scheme for the uplands that reflects the additional costs of farming in these naturally disadvantaged areas.”