Alun Davies, Deputy Minister for Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and European Programmes
The deadline for farmers in Wales to respond formally to the offer of a Glastir All-Wales Element (AWE) contract commencing in January 2012 ended yesterday, Tuesday 31 January 2012.
The total number of AWE contracts entered into in 2012 now stands at 1,698, covering a total area of some 154,014 hectares. There are also 107 Glastir Common Land Element (CLE) contracts in place involving 947 active graziers and 67,922 hectares. The current total of approved Glastir Woodland Creation contracts stands at 269, with a further 262 applications awaiting approval. To date, some 225 hectares of woodland has been planted, with a further 672 hectares approved for planting.
A total of 120 Glastir AWE contract holders have been selected for entry into the Agricultural Carbon Reduction and Efficiency Scheme (ACRES) in 2012 and have been sent an application form for completion. Those applicants not selected in this round will be considered for entry as part of future selections.
In addition, approximately 500 AWE applicants were selected for entry into the Glastir Targeted Element (TE) in 2013. Those not selected for entry into the TE in this round will be considered in future selections.
I believe that this is a good start and compares very favourably with other agri environment schemes in their first year of operation. That said, I also believe that much work remains to be done. We will not know the true success of Glastir until 2014, once the majority of the outgoing agri environment schemes agreements come to an end.
The number of commons entering into the CLE in its first year of operation is particularly notable. This represents approximately 32% of the area of common land in Wales that will now be managed within Glastir. This compares with less than 2% under previous agri-environment schemes, Tir Gofal and the Environmentally Sensitive Area (ESA) scheme.
Approximately 7,000 farmers hold a Tir Gofal or Tir Cynnal agreement. Following the extension arrangements, many of these farmers will not consider entry to Glastir until 2014 when their extension arrangements come to an end. Just over 10,400 farmers have claimed the final Tir Mynydd payment which will be made from March 2012. Of these, approximately 5,000 have expressed an interest in joining the Glastir AWE from 2013.
The support offered through Glastir and its accessibility will be further increased when the organic conversion and maintenance element is introduced. Proposals for future organic support will be drafted for consultation once the new Rural Development Regulations are known.
The deadline for applicants to submit their Woodland Management Scheme applications is the end of March 2012, following which woodland advisors will undertake visits throughout the summer. 19 expressions of interest have been received since the application window opened on 1 January. Contracts need to be returned by the end of 2012 and we will know the total uptake figures at that point. The Woodland Creation scheme is currently open for applications and will remain so until further notice.
I know that many farmers will now want a period of stability following what has been a somewhat lengthy period of change in scheme design, including the acceptance of many recommendations from the Rees Roberts review. That said, I think it is important that we take stock, pause for breath, and consider with those farmers who have been directly involved in the process, what has gone well and what has gone less well.
For that reason, I will now review how we have implemented Glastir and listen to suggestions on how we might improve Glastir and the process of application for the future. This taking stock exercise will take place over the coming months and will be completed by early summer. I will make a further statement on the matter in due course. One area for attention – certainly from the many conversations I have had with farmers who have applied for Glastir – is in the communication of the scheme. The Glastir AWE application pack has already been reviewed and updated for the current application window and there are 12 Glastir drop in sessions arranged across Wales which will provide technical and administrative guidance during the current Glastir AWE application period.
The farming industry in Wales is aware that £89 million per annum is currently available for the delivery of Glastir and the outgoing agri environment schemes. If that funding is not taken up there will be many calls for that money to be used elsewhere.
Glastir provides a mechanism through which the Welsh Government is able to compensate farmers for the action they take on helping to deliver what Wales must deliver in respect of a number of European Directives. The alternative to Glastir might well be legislative without the compensation payments that farmers in Glastir enjoy.