NFU Cymru has called for further clarity on funding for the new Habitat Wales Scheme following an announcement that the scheme will be open for applications later this week.
In a written statement on Monday 25 September, the Minister for Rural Affairs Lesley Griffiths announced that applications for the Habitat Wales Scheme will open on Friday 29 September, with contracts commencing in January 2024.
Details around the budget for this new interim scheme are still unclear and NFU Cymru says this ambiguity is unsettling for those considering entering the scheme, particularly the thousands of farmers who have previously held Glastir contracts.
NFU Cymru Rural Affairs Board Chairman Hedd Pugh said:
“As developments unfold we are increasingly anxious for Glastir contract-holders, many of whom have been participants in agri-environment schemes for decades and who have adapted their businesses as a result, who could well lose a significant part of their income in 2024. We’ve had no reassurances that the new, interim scheme will match levels of income currently received through Glastir.
“For an industry that is so reliant on certainty and long-term planning – and having weathered significant financial storms and volatility in the last year – it is very difficult for farmers to make a commitment to this scheme when we still don’t know the budget available with only three months until the scheme begins. Regrettably, today’s statement does little to answer the fundamental questions farmers need answered in order to inform decisions about participation in the scheme.
No comprehensive impact assessment
“To maintain the confidence of farming in the proposed direction of travel, the budget of around £35m for agri-environment must be at least maintained.”
NFU Cymru has previously placed on the public record its concerns that the decisions over the transition from Glastir to the new interim scheme were taken without comprehensive impact assessment and economic modelling.