FUNDING to support organic agriculture in Wales will end in December 2023, a government spokesperson has confirmed.
Welsh Government said that the Sustainable Farming Scheme (SFS) will support all sustainable land management, indicating that it would be wrong to single out organic farming as superior and uniquely deserving of additional support.
Glastir Organic will close in December and organic farmers will instead have to apply for an interim agri-environment scheme, which will run until the new SFS is in place.
Farmers have complained about the lack of detail in the new financial arrangements and say that the closure of Glastir Organic poses an “existential threat” to hundreds of sustainable food and farming businesses.
Patrick Holden, Welsh organic farmer and chief executive of the Sustainable Food Trust, said “I believe that the decision to withdraw support payments will inflict long-term damage, not just on the organic sector but on Welsh agricultural community as a whole.”
A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “Organic farming and its practices are consistent with the principles of sustainable land management, which are fundamental to the proposed Sustainable Farming Scheme. As committed adopters of these principles, organic farms should find the transition to the new scheme easier.
“Organic farming is one form of sustainable land management, and our new scheme will also aim to encourage wider participation in sustainable land management. Final scheme design decisions will not be made until the conclusion of a further consultation which is set to begin towards the end of this year.
“Glastir Organic will come to an end in December 2023 as the existing contract expires, however farmers in Wales, including organic farmers, have access to a range of support schemes, including an interim agri-environment scheme which will be opening later this year.”
Samuel Kurtz MS, Shadow Agriculture Minister in the Senedd said “I am deeply concerned that the decision to end Glastir was taken during the summer recess, with no opportunity for us to scrutinise and ask questions in the Senedd.”
The Welsh Organic Forum has warned First Minister Mark Drakeford that at a time when farmers are already struggling with rising costs and low farm gate prices due to the cost-of-living crisis, the move could put hundreds of organic businesses at risk of collapse.
An open letter to Mark Drakeford, signed by the Welsh Organic Forum, said “We are shocked that the Welsh Government looks set to reject a globally recognised beacon of sustainable farming. A withdrawal of support for organic farming will have serious economic and environmental consequences in Wales.
“The decision poses an existential risk to the Welsh food and farming sector’s ability to deliver to our climate, nature and food security obligations. It is likely to precipitate a mass exodus of organic farmers, inflicting long-lasting damage on the sector.”
Samuel Kurtz said the decision had caused shock waves across the Welsh farming industry. “Welsh Conservatives have been pushing for agriculture funding to be ring-fenced, in essence, and for Glastir to continue until the end of 2024 when the new SFS is due to begin. Instead organic farmers will have to apply for the interim scheme, but no information has been provided about payment levels or the possible impacts for organic farmers.”
Wales currently has the highest proportion of land area certified as organic in the UK.