Farmers in Ceredigion recently came together to discuss #FarmingMatters with regional Assembly Member Simon Thomas, who also sits on the National Assembly for Wales Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs Committee, and outlined some of the issues they are facing with agri-environment schemes and diversification.
Hosting the visit was beef and sheep farmer Huw Davies, of Llety Ifan Hen, Bontgoch, Ceredigion, who together with his father Emyr runs the 900 acre holding. The farm carries 1500 ewes, 400 replacement and ewe lambs, 40 suckler cows and followers, as well as 20 store cattle.
Being born on the farm in 1965, Huw has been farming here full time since 1990, after traveling around New Zealand and studying agriculture at Llysfasi College.
The family have further diversified into a 500 kw wind turbine and are also in the Glastir Advanced and Glastir Organic Schemes.
Outlining the major issues he faces with Glastir, Huw Davies said: “We have carried out all of the work we were required to do under our Glastir advanced contract, such as building a 180 metre stone wall, planting 250 meters of hedges and fencing off woodland. Despite all of the work carried out we have still not been reimbursed for income foregone, which by now adds up to £25,000.
“Last year we were reimbursed by April for our environmental work, which wasn’t too bad but considering that our BPS was late this year as well, things are tight financially. That means we can’t invest in the business or pay our contractors. It is very frustrating and almost impossible to plan ahead or even fill out your tax forms, when you might end up getting two payments in the same financial year or none at all.”
FUW Head of Policy, Dr Nick Fenwick said: “Like all agri-environment schemes, Glastir payments compensate farmers for work they have done and costs they have incurred, so it is only fair that payments should be made within a reasonable time period.”
Dr Fenwick said the industry had been incensed in March when the Welsh Government told the press there was no such thing as a late Glastir payment, implying they could sit on payments for as long as they wanted.
“The Welsh Government regularly writes to farmers giving them thirty days to repay sums which have been incorrectly paid. If the Welsh Ministers believe this is a reasonable time period then it should follow the same principle itself, especially where costs have been incurred. Based on such a period, many hundreds of Glastir payments owed by the Government are now more than three months late.”
With farmgate prices down and the future of agricultural payments uncertain, Huw decided to diversify into renewable energy and in June last year built a 500 kw wind turbine. The process and the rewards it offers are however not as straightforward as some might think.
Huw explains: “The planning process for getting this project of the ground was incredibly complicated and without our consultant we would not have
stood a chance in making this happen. Welsh Government have to make the process easier, so that more farmers can diversify to safeguard their businesses but also to increase the amount of renewable energy produced here in Wales. It has to be easy and attractive for people if they are to engage with such diversifications. To help with that it would also be sensible to bring the tariff back. We are lucky that we have the turbine now as it offers a bit of financial security, especially given the uncertain future farming faces with our exit from the European Union imminent and no plans in place for future agricultural support.”