Alun Davies, Deputy Minister for Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and European Programmes
In July I announced the outcome of my stocktake of Glastir. This statement is intended to update Members on progress since July and our proposals for 2013.
The first Glastir Entry contracts started on 1 January this year and I am pleased to announce that payments amounting to £3,565,323 have been made already with additional payments of up to £1,636,000 expected to be made before Christmas. Around 700 contracts will also have been issued by Christmas to farmers who applied to join the scheme with a start date of 1 January 2013. Next year, in line with my stocktake commitment, there will be an “Anytime” application process that will open on 1 January. From this date, farmers will be able to request an application form and all signed applications received by the end of September 2013 will be considered for a start date of 1 January 2014. This is an important period as the majority of existing Tir Gofal and Tir Cynnal extension agreements will expire on 31December 2013 and I am keen to see as many of these farms join Glastir Entry as possible next year. Over 4,500 of these farmers have expressed an interest in Glastir and I would hope that we would sign up a majority of these farms to Glastir Entry to ensure the continuity of the valuable environmental goods and services the farmers involved have delivered so far.
Over 209 farmers applied for a Glastir Efficiency grant in 2012 and we have already approved over 100 contracts with the first payments being made now for important equipment which will help farmers modernise their business infrastructure and provide environmental outcomes.
Grants for slurry injectors, infrastructure such as slurry stores, and improved energy efficient machinery are enabling farmers to improve their nutrient management and make their farm buildings more energy efficient. I am also very pleased to announce that invitations have been sent out to a further 611 farmers to submit applications for an Efficiency grant for next year.
The first Glastir Advanced contracts will also begin on 1 January 2013. This pioneering part of the Glastir scheme will target Rural Development Plan money more effectively to where the highest potential for environmental benefits can be realised. The Welsh Government anticipates 300 contracts will be commencing from 1 January 2013. Furthermore, 1,100 invitations have been sent out to farmers to receive a visit from a contract manager with the aim of a Glastir Advanced contract being in place by 1 January 2014.
The Glastir Commons Element exceeded expectations in its first year and continues to go from strength to strength. In total, 107 contracts were in place at the beginning of this year and we have already made payments worth £2,038,426 with up to a further £312,365 due to be made before the end of the year. An additional 52 contracts will be issued by Christmas which when signed would bring the total area of Common Land in the scheme to 94,000 hectares.
There are now 441 signed contracts for the Glastir Woodland Creation scheme committing to planting 1,452ha of new woodland and payments made so far total around £1.8million. The first Glastir Woodland Management contracts are being issued and by the beginning of 2014 I expect there to be around 270 contracts in operation.
The last six months have also seen continued improvements to make the scheme more accessible. The changes to the Glastir Entry application window next year will give farmers considerably more time to plan and prepare their applications. The changes I requested to cut the red tape associated with the scheme have also been introduced. The amount of diary records farmers are required to keep has been reduced and remaining records are all reimbursed within the scheme payment rates. Commons Development Officers will continue to be available to facilitate the formation of Grazing Associations and the completion of Glastir Commons applications next year. I have also decided to utilise their services more widely next year. They have been receiving training across other aspects of the scheme and from January they will begin to deliver farmer surgeries and on farm training for those considering signing up to Glastir Entry. We now also have a communications plan in place that is starting to deliver the key messages we need to get across to farmers.
There is a renewed interest in Glastir and a recognition that the scheme will deliver for farmers and the environment alike. It is important that all stakeholders with an interest in farming and the environment in Wales work together to ensure that farmers have objective and accurate information about the scheme to help them make an informed decision on applying to join.
I am confident that we have built the foundations for a successful scheme and that 2013 will provide further evidence that Glastir will deliver for Wales.