Alan Davies AM, Minister for Natural Resources and Food
It is now a year since I made my announcement on the Glastir Stocktake.
I made clear at the time that I would be taking Glastir forward within the new Rural Development Plan (RDP) and that some change might well be necessary and/or desirable. This statement provides an update for Members on the significant progress that has been made since this Stocktake. This statement also sets out my thoughts on Glastir going forward alongside some of the other important work now underway as we consider our approach to the environment in its widest sense. Glastir, although important of course, is but one piece of that bigger jigsaw.
Glastir Entry is now in its third year and farmers have until the end of September to submit completed applications if they wish to be signed-up for a Glastir contract commencing on 1 January 2014. So far this year an additional 1,000 farmers have submitted applications to join the scheme which brings the approximate number of farmers in the entry level component of the scheme to 3200.
There are 251 Glastir Advanced contracts in place and I expect to achieve our target of 800 additional contracts by the end of this year. Another selection will be made for the Advanced element of the scheme in September with a view to securing a further 800 new Glastir Advanced contracts starting in 2015.
The Glastir Commons component has been a significant success. By the beginning of this year the Welsh Government had already committed around £15 million in the scheme and brought nearly 50% of common land under formal management. Grazing associations responsible for an additional 40,000 hectares of Welsh common land have submitted an interest in the scheme this year. To build on the success of this component, I have insisted that all grazing associations with a Glastir commons contract should be offered the opportunity to sign an Advanced contract by the end of next year. This represents a significant investment by the Welsh Government in the environment and in the common land of Wales.
To date 563 agreements have been signed in respect of the Glastir Woodland Creation scheme and 237 agreements for Glastir Woodland Management are expected to be up and running by the end of this year. The financial commitment made by the Welsh Government to Welsh woodlands through the Glastir scheme will be worth approximately £11.6 million by the end of this year. I will retain the Glastir Woodland Creation Scheme – it remains open for applications - and I will be allocating additional resource to the planting of more trees; creating habitat in response to the State of Nature report findings and delivering other environmental benefits and potentially developing new income streams for land owners/managers.
In addition to this, around £7 million will have been committed to the Efficiency Grants scheme by the end of the year.
The limited success of our past agri-environment schemes, now replaced by Glastir, was highlighted in the recently issued State of Nature report as well as our own monitoring and evaluation reports undertaken by independent consultants that I will be publishing shortly. Since my Stocktake, we have developed Glastir to ensure we are addressing many of the lessons learned from previous schemes and introducing less complexity to allow the Welsh Government to make a significant investment in the environment of Wales with farmers as the main delivery agents. Many people do not appreciate the vitally important role that farmers play in this respect. Farmers produce food but equally importantly they are stewards of the countryside and of the environment and we should all recognise the importance of that dual role.
I have recently made announcements on the future of CAP and I remain committed to ensuring that, working alongside partners and key stakeholders, we fully maximise the potential of Glastir under the next RDP. I do believe that further changes to how the scheme operates will be needed to help us achieve that objective.
We need to look for new and more creative solutions to fund environmental interventions. I have asked my officials to explore the opportunities to expand our budgets with commercial funding, and to find ways to incentivise the delivery of ecosystems services. Where possible, I wish to move away from simply paying – as the RDP Regulations insist we do - for the offset of lost agricultural production and costs incurred. We need to recognise that without financially viable farm businesses there will be no land managers to deliver environmental goods and therefore we have to ensure that delivering these services makes good economic and business sense. Wherever possible I will be looking for interventions that make both economic and environmental sense.
My Stocktake has enabled more farmers and grazing associations to enter Glastir this year however, I wish to further speed up accessibility and direct more money towards the more targeted interventions which will deliver for Wales on the more challenging environmental objectives.
Both the Advanced and Efficiency Grants components of Glastir have been designed
to target money where it delivers the most. However, we need to re-consider how we fine-tune implementation to deliver increased flexibility and to reduce complexity while also retaining, most importantly, the quality of the environmental outcomes we are seeking. To achieve this reduction in complexity will also require an acceptance that some of the things we currently expect from the Glastir scheme would perhaps be better addressed by other means. I have therefore asked officials in both Welsh Government and Natural Resources Wales to explore other potential mechanisms to fund or require works that will contribute to Wales delivering on its environmental objectives and commitments.
There is also an opportunity when delivering targeted interventions like those in Glastir Advanced to learn the lessons of the Common Land component of the scheme. The benefits of facilitators and incentive payments for co-operation between groups of farmers have been well learned and opportunities – for both Government and for groups of farmers - to apply this approach more widely will be sought under the next RDP.
I have already described my ambition to see farmers recognised by the public for the important role they play in delivering positive environmental outcomes as well as producing food. And I want farmers to see themselves in this way as well of course. The people of Wales want farmers to produce food and to look after the environment; not one or the other but both of these equally important things.
The next RDP will place an emphasis on the provision of advice and support and this should become an integral part of the delivery of agri-environment and other schemes under the next RDP. We cannot expect our land managers to deliver our schemes effectively unless they have the appropriate mind-set, training and skills and equally importantly a clear understanding of what we wish to achieve. Equally, land managers should no longer expect funding support as a right from the Welsh Government unless they are willing to engage and work with Government in a positive and pro-active manner and to seek the knowledge they require to be able to deliver food production, environmental outcomes and successful – and by that I mean professionally run and profitable – farm businesses.
The improvements made to Glastir have clearly made the scheme more attractive to land managers and is continuing to attract a healthy interest in terms of participation.
2010 - N/A
2011 - N/A
2012 - 1677
2013 - 544
2014* - 2000
2010 - N/A
2011 - N/A
2012 - 107
2013 - 40
2014* - 50
2010 - N/A
2011 - N/A
2012 - 0
2013 - 251
2014* - 800
Glastir Efficiency Grants
2010 - N/A
2011 - N/A
2012 - 215
2013 - 95
2014* - 95
Glastir Woodland Creation
2010 - 28
2011 - 212
2012 - 248
2013 - 75*
2014* - N/A
Glastir Woodland Management
2010 - N/A
2011 - N/A
2013 - 17
2014* - 220
* Glastir 2014 is based on uptake to date or projected forecasts
It will be some years before we are in a position through our monitoring and evaluation to understand whether Glastir is delivering all of the positive outcomes that we are seeking. The early signs are good and I want once more to encourage farmers who have yet to engage with the scheme to take a look and see for themselves what it has to offer