Lesley Griffiths MS, The Minister for Rural Affairs and North Wales has announced that applications for the Habitat Wales Scheme will open on 29 September 2023. The Habitat Wales Scheme is an interim agri-environment scheme for 2023, once the Glastir scheme comes to an end in December and before the arrival of the Sustainable Farming Scheme in 2025. The full details of that permanent scheme haven’t yet been announced by the Welsh Government but the aim of the Habitat Wales Scheme is to ensure continuity in environmental grant provision for farmers in Wales.
The Welsh Government sees the scheme as an essential part of their plan in reacting to the nature emergency but haven’t yet announced a budget for the scheme. In a statement, Lesley Griffiths said there were many factors that had led to this situation:
‘Members will be acutely aware of the incredibly difficult financial situation we’re facing, which is having an impact across all portfolios. 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.
As you’ll be aware, 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.’
NFU Cymru have been critical of the lack of clarity in the announcement, saying that there is a need for greater detail in order to quell the fears of some farmers regarding a possible reduction in payments. They argue that the fact the budget hasn’t been announced yet is leading to unease amongst those who are considering joining the scheme, especially the thousands of farmers who received Glastir payments in the past.
Hedd Pugh, Chairman of NFU’s Rural Affairs Borad 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.’
He also said it was key for an industry fully reliant on planning ahead to ensure success, to have certainty regarding levels of funding in order to make essential arrangements. NFU Cymru have been critical in the past of the Welsh Government moving toward a new scheme without an impact assessment or economic modelling.
For the latest developments regarding Habitat Wales Scheme 2024 and the Sustainable Farming Scheme that will follow in 2025, keep an eye out on Arsyllfa’s feeds.