The Welsh branch of the National Farmers’ Union (NFU Cymru) has voiced concern that current Glastir contract holders could be left “worse off” as a result of the transition to the new Habitat Cymru scheme

The union’s rural affairs board has said farmers are fearing the transition to the new environment scheme as it could result in loss of income.

The Habitat Cymru scheme is set to replace Glastir Advanced, Commons and Organic area-based contracts which come to an end in December 2023 ahead of the introduction of the Sustainable Farming Scheme (SFS) in 2025.

The scheme is expected to provide a payment per hectare of eligible habitat land including habitat land previously under management in 2023; additional mapped habitat land, not currently under paid management; as well as maintaining environmental support for common land.

The Welsh government’s interim habitat scheme for 2024 was top of the agenda at NFU Cymru’s rural affairs board, which met earlier this month, the union said.

Chair of the NFU Cymru rural affairs board, Hedd Pugh, said: “In a letter to the minister last month, NFU Cymru stressed the need to provide a stable and well-planned transition from current to future schemes.

“We have welcomed Welsh government’s reassurances that it intends to make this period of change as easy as possible for farmers through offering a fair transition over several years and making sure there is no cliff edge in funding.

“However, our concern is that Welsh government appears to have made a decision of such significance without comprehensive impact assessment and economic modelling. This is deeply concerning.”

Pugh said thousands of farmers with Glastir contracts face the prospect of a significant loss of income from the end of the year with Welsh government unable to provide any reassurance that the new, interim scheme will match levels of income currently received through Glastir.

“This is far from a ‘fair transition’,” he said.

“For contract holders, Glastir is a critical component of farm business incomes, including supporting the organic farming sector in Wales.

“With farm input costs through the roof and interest rates soaring, the loss of Glastir leaves farmers currently under contract in a worrying situation.”

Pugh said NFU Cymru believes that the Welsh government should consider offering Glastir extensions for 2024 with the new interim habitat scheme offered to non-Glastir contract holders.

“The maintenance of current funding levels for farming through the Basic Payment Scheme in 2024, alongside the provision of adequate funding for agri-environment is going to be essential to maintaining the confidence of the industry ahead of Welsh government’s proposed introduction of the Sustainable Farming Scheme from 2025,” he said.