Farmer backlash over “financially unworkable” Habitat Wales scheme

Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) and its members have voiced shock and anger at the new Habitat Wales scheme after calculations revealed a major shortfall in payments compared to the previous Glastir scheme.

The new scheme has also been found to have major flaws and inaccuracies in the farm maps published last week.

The FUW said there is “real anger” about the scheme among Welsh farmers, many of whom have participated in environmental schemes for decades.

FUW president Ian Rickman said: “The scheme was foisted upon the industry at the 11th hour as a done deal, and while a small number of improvements have been made in response to FUW calls, it has certainly not been developed in cooperation with the farming industry as it should have been.

“The FUW has been clear in its warnings regarding the scheme since it was announced as the replacement for Glastir in July, and these warnings have come true.”

The Union is also concerned about the continued lack of clarity on the scheme budget and that the payment rates are significantly below what farmers would have received under the Glastir schemes.

“Many of our members are telling me that they are not going to enter the scheme because the income foregone and costs incurred payment rates fall well below their true value, meaning it is financially unworkable and not manageable in the real world,” Mr Rickman stressed.

“Some members have been in agri-environment schemes for up to 30 years yet they’re not going to apply because the rates are lower than they were decades ago. Surely that goes against what should be the Welsh Government’s objectives for a habitat scheme?”

Mr Rickman said the FUW has always been happy and willing to work with the Welsh government when it comes to designing Wales-specific policies and that the decision to design the scheme in isolation without union input and announce it as a finished article just weeks before launching it demonstrated the dangers of not listening to the industry.

He added that even with the support provided to government officials by FUW, the scheme remains unaffordable for many Union members.

“The Minister must therefore urgently review this scheme as it will fail thousands of farmers in its current form,” he concluded.

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