Unions have warned that farmers could be left facing a 70 per cent reduction in funding when a new scheme comes into effect in the new year.
NFU Cymru says it is disappointed to hear that many of the concerns over the Habitat Wales Scheme raised by the union in its letter to the rural affairs minister earlier this summer have been realised, following the launch of the scheme application period.
Over the last week, NFU Cymru says many farmers have expressed concern over the massive loss in income they will face as their current Glastir contract ends on 31 December and the Habitat Wales Scheme begins in January.
NFU Cymru president Aled Jones said: “We have had a lot of farmers get in contact with NFU Cymru over recent days who are extremely worried at the drop in income they will face as Glastir ends and the Habitat Wales Scheme begins.
“A great deal of those raising concerns have committed to government-backed agri-environment delivery on their farms for nearly 30 years.
“Many farmers report that they will face a reduction in funding of 70 per cent and more in agri-environment support by entering into the new scheme.
“Our members have also highlighted errors in the habitat maps published on RPW Online, we have raised these issues with Welsh Government and hope they can be addressed.
“In our letter to the minister in August, and in discussions with the minister and her officials at the Royal Welsh Show and subsequently, we highlighted our concerns at the lack of consultation and a comprehensive impact assessment to understand the effect on farming businesses prior to making the decision to end all Glastir contracts and introduce the Habitat Wales Scheme.
“We also raised concerns at the ability to get a totally new scheme designed, tested and operational within such a short timescale.
“I take no pleasure in seeing the concerns we raised being realised on the opening of the application period for the Habitat Wales Scheme, it is farming families, rural communities and the continued delivery of agri-environment work on farms across Wales that are the losers in all of this.
“I would urge Welsh Government to urgently review the scheme and address the economic and technical matters that are concerning farmers who are committed to the maintenance and enhancement of the farmed environment across Wales.
“It is only by doing this that government will be able to restore confidence in its ability to support environmental activity on farms ahead of the introduction of the Sustainable Farming Scheme in 2025.”
Ian Rickman, FUW president, added: “We are extremely concerned by the lack of clarity on the budget available.
“The uncertainty for farming business is immense and no business should be expected to operate under such circumstances.
“Reduced payment rates along with the loss of whole farm management payments and support for capital works means that those currently in Glastir will receive significantly smaller payments next year if they decide to enter the scheme.
“In addition, due to time constraints, the Welsh Government will not have the ability to deal with mapping issues or offer a second round of contracts beyond 1 January 2024, even if the budget allowed.”