Monday, 17 August 2009

Too early to bash land management scheme: Minister for Rural Affairs

ELIN Jones has called on organic farmers to hold their fire after one firm criticised the Welsh Assembly Government’s (WAG) proposed land management scheme, Glastir.

Glastir will be introduced in 2012, but has come under fire from Graig Producers, which has raised concerns about 'plummenting incomes'.

But Minister for Rural Affairs Elin Jones says it's too early to speculate on the operational detail of Glastir. She says farming and countryside interests, including Organic Centre Wales are being consulted extensively as the details of the scheme are drawn up.

Elin Jones said: "It is my intention that transition into Glastir should ensure that, wherever possible, the environmental benefits already delivered through considerable investment both by government and farmers in previous schemes are maintained. I am also keen to ensure the farming community is best positioned to adjust to the changing opportunities that Glastir provides.

"With these objectives in mind, in July, I announced that existing agreement holders in Tir Cynnal and Tir Gofal will be offered an extension of their annual management payments until the end of 2013. This decision was taken specifically to allow farmers time to decide how best to respond to these changes in terms of planning their farm business."

"All holdings certified as wholly organic will be eligible for a 50% reduction on the points required to enter the scheme in recognition of the environmental benefits derived from their organic status. An organic conversion fund will also be included within the Glastir scheme. Those wishing to convert to organic farming or bring additional land into organic status will be able to apply for funding from this fund."

The Minister added that the planned payment rate for the all-Wales element of Glastir for farmers within the Less Favoured Area of Wales (LFA) will be £33.60 per hectare (£28/hectare outside the LFA). This compares to the LFA payment rates of £28 and £24 per hectare for the Severely Disadvantaged Area and the Disadvantaged Area.

As a result of close working with stakeholders, it has been agreed that farmers who have land of high biodiversity value anywhere in Wales will be able to apply for support under the targeted element of Glastir provided they are already in the all-Wales element of Glastir.

This opportunity will apply irrespective of whether farmers are in any existing agri-environment scheme. This will allow for continuity in the management of important habitats and also offers farmers who have previously been unable to access funding for this work the chance to participate.

The Minister concluded:

"As no final decision on the location and allocation of funds for the targeted level of Glastir has been made, it is premature to conclude that any work has been wasted. Direct comparisons between Glastir and current agri-environment schemes, including financial arrangements, are not possible given the very different aims and objectives of Glastir. In addition, the financial position requires the Welsh Assembly Government to ensure that the £90 million annual spend under Glastir represents the best possible use of taxpayers' money and delivers outcomes that clearly address the challenges of climate change, bio-diversity, water management and carbon capture."


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