Wales' new interim agri-environment scheme soon opens

The budget for the scheme has yet to be announced by the Welsh government
The budget for the scheme has yet to be announced by the Welsh government

Farmers will be able to apply to Wales' interim agri-environment scheme in a few days time, with contracts commencing in January 2024.

The Habitat Wales Scheme opens on 29 September as the industry transitions away from Glastir to the start of the Sustainable Farming Scheme, in 2025.

Glastir Advanced, Commons and Organic area-based contracts will come to an end in December 2023.

The Habitat Wales Scheme offers farmers an opportunity to maintain and increase the area of habitat land under management across Wales.

It is expected to provide a payment per hectare of eligible habitat land, including habitat land previously under management in 2023.

It will be available to all eligible farmers, including Glastir Advanced, Commons and Organic farmers.

But farm leaders have raised fears that the transition to Wales' new environment scheme could result in a loss of income for many.

Announcing more details today (25 September), the Welsh government said the scheme was an "important part of our response to the nature emergency".

However, the scheme's budget has not been unveiled due to the 'incredibly difficult financial situation' affecting the government's portfolios.

Lesley Griffiths, Minister for Rural Affairs, said: "We are opening the scheme now so farmers who are interested can see the scheme details and proposed payment rates and apply, ready for contracts to begin in January.

"I would encourage anyone interested in continuing Wales’ proud tradition of agri-environment participation... to give full consideration to applying to the Habitat Wales Scheme, once the application window opens."

Highlighting budgetary pressures, Ms Griffiths said: "Our financial position is up to £900m lower in real terms than we expected at the time of the last spending review in 2021, due to very high inflation and energy prices and the mismanagement of the economy by the UK government.

"The Cabinet has been working throughout the summer to do everything we can to mitigate these budgetary pressures.

"Once this work has been completed, I will be in a position to confirm the budget for the scheme."

Applications to Habitat Wales Scheme will open on Friday 29 September, with contracts commencing in January 2024.