Facts & Figures
Identifying HNV farmland in South Wales
Although it contains both large areas of semi-natural vegetation and of fine-grained mosaic landscapes, defining High Nature Value farmland and farming systems in South Wales presents a number of challenges to the ecologist and policy maker.
The uplands are dominated by semi-natural vegetation and thus fall unequivocally into ‘Type 1’ of the EEA HNV typology. Stocking densities are low (<0.5 LU/ha), but both sheep numbers and the general lack of hill cattle are widely considered to be sub-optimal. Both these issues are to a limited extent being addressed through agri-environment payments, which are also encouraging a more seasonal stocking pattern which better matches forage availability. The aim of these policies is to increase the area of heathland at the expense of acid grassland and to reduce the dominance of Molinia caerulea in wet grasslands. Post-decoupling and in the absence of large herbivores, the challenge for policy makers which have for many years been focussed on reducing farming intensity is to define minimum desirable stocking densities, both annually and seasonally.
In the lowlands, there are three major issues. First, what does ‘nature value’ mean in the lowlands? While a clear distinction exists between bocages with sown or highly improved grassland (MG7 of the National Vegetation Classification) and less intensive types, how should semi-natural grasslands poor in higher plants but potentially rich in lower plants and invertebrates, which are so common in Wales, be regarded? Second, is it meaningful to define HNV ‘areas’ in a country where semi-natural pastures are widely, if unevenly, distributed? Third, are there ‘HNV farming systems’ in the lowlands, or do semi-natural pastures exist mainly as patches on farms following rather intensive systems? If they do exist, support frameworks need to be more systemic and not dependent on essentially field-based measures.
Support payments in Wales
The Single Farm Payment is the successor to the main commodity-based headage and area payments. In Wales the SFP is based on historic receipts in the period 2000-2002 paid per hectare declared in the same period. They therefore vary considerably, but as an illustration a historic stocking rate of 1 LU/ha would result in a payment somewhere in the range £120-£200/ha before modulation, while an upland stocking rate of 0.3 LU/ha would attract about £35/ha.
Less Favoured Area (Tir Mynydd) payments are available in 80% of the country (see map). The LFA is divided into a Disadvantaged and a Severely Disadvantaged zone. Tir Mynydd payments for 2009 are £30/ha (SDA) and £20/ha (DA), with a reduction of 35% over 140 ha and 70% over 640 ha. The minimum claimed area is 6 ha and land used for milk production is not eligible. Minimum activity is not defined but applicants must ‘farm’ for a minimum of 5 years and under cross-compliance they must graze or mow at least once within any 5 years.
Agri-environment comes in the form of 4 schemes. The Catchment Sensitive Farming Scheme is not open as yet and is aimed at minimising the impact of intensive farming and there is also an Organic Farming Scheme. Tir Cynnal is an entry level nature and landscape-oriented scheme, now closed to new applicants. The higher level equivalent called Tir Gofal; funding for the latter is extremely tight, so that access to support is difficult.
Tir Cynnal and whole farm Tir Gofal rates are:
|Tir Cynna||Tir Gofal|
|First 20 ha||£45/ha/ year||£20|
|Next 21 - 50 ha||£30/ha/ year||£15|
|Next 51 - 100 ha||£25/ha/year||£10|
|Next 101 - 200 ha||£5/ha/year||£5|
|Over 200 ha||£2/ha/year||£5 (to 410 ha)|
Tir Gofal has a range of management payments, for example:
|Unenclosed unimproved grassland (<2200 ha)||£37.50/ha|