The Welsh Government is making over £66m available for environmental improvements through farming, only a few days after the Shadow Minister for Rural Affairs called for future certainty for the scheme that will provide the funding.
Samuel Kurtz MS said to the Minister, Lesley Griffiths, on Wednesday that there was “nervousness” within the agricultural industry regarding the future of the Glastir Organic, Commons and Advanced agreements that are due to expire on 13 December this year.
He continued: “These agri-environment schemes play an important role within the Welsh agricultural industry, but farmers are now nervously awaiting an announcement as to whether these contracts will be extended for a further 12 months or more… With the industry having first been told a decision would be expected in July, and then late summer, can you please provide clarity over the renewal of these schemes, to give Welsh farmers some level of certainty?”
At the time, the Minister failed to provide any re-assurances saying she was “unable to make announcement” until she had “some surety about funding” from central government.
Since then, she has also confirmed it is the Welsh Government’s intention for the Basic Payment Scheme to continue until 2023, subject to the UK Government’s comprehensive spending review.
Over 1.3m hectares of Welsh agricultural land come under a Glastir contract and the continuation of the scheme ensures priority sites and areas in Wales are managed effectively to achieve positive environmental outcomes.
The Minister also announced a further £7m to extend the Farming Connect programme through to March 2023.
Commenting, Samuel Kurtz MS said:
“This certainty will be welcomed by farmers and land owners, but they’ll be left scratching their heads as to why it’s taken this long to be confirmed.
“What the industry wants to see is both the UK and Welsh governments working together to deliver lasting change beyond that 2023 expiration and I look forward to engaging with the Minister, DEFRA, and the Secretary of State for Wales on this issue.
“I have always been of the view that farmers can help deliver positive outcomes for the environment while enhancing our food security. But for that to be achieved, they need help rather than obstacles.
“I’m pleased the Minister listened and acted following my questioning and I hope this is just the beginning for continued engagement and support for the industry. As we tackle climate change, agriculture can be part of the solution, because it certainly isn't the cause."