Certified organic farmers in Pembrokeshire can claim payments of up to £300 a hectare (ha) under a new support scheme for the sector, but with significant cuts to all but one of the payments they had received under the Glastir Organic Scheme.

Under the Welsh Organic Support Payment scheme, farmers with horticultural land, which previously attracted a payment rate of £400/ha, will get £300/ha while the Welsh government has set the rate for enclosed land at £45/ha, down from £65/ha.

Land above the upper limit of enclosure will be supported to the tune of £9/ha - previously £15/ha – and enclosed land with a dairy enterprise will receive £115/ha, subject to stocking rate.

Dairy is the only sector to see an increase in the payment rate, to reflect higher input costs.

All other payments are around 30% lower, which Pembrokeshire farmer and deputy Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) president Dai Miles, describes as “disappointing’’.

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But for Mr Miles and other organic dairy farmers, the uplift in dairy support is welcome.

He hopes it will encourage less intensive conventional milk producers to consider converting to an organic system, including those who may need to destock to comply with Nitrate Vulnerable Zone (NVZ) requirements.

Mr Miles, managing director of the farmer-owned organic co-op, Calon Wen, who farms near Haverfordwest, says there had been an “exodus’’ from the organic sector when prices paid for their milk almost reached parity with conventional prices during 2022, despite a much higher cost of production.

At one point, organic feed prices had hit £640 a tonne and, although Mr Miles says these have since fallen by around £130/t, they are still high.

“Wearing my Calon Wen hat, I am very pleased that the Welsh government has acknowledged the high cost of producing organic milk after what has been a difficult few years for organic dairy farmers,’’ he says.

The creation of the Welsh Organic Support Scheme comes after the Welsh government attracted fierce criticism following its sudden decision to end the Glastir Organic Scheme at the end of 2023, worth £3.1m a year to the organic sector in Wales.

At that time, the Welsh Organic Forum had warned First Minister Mark Drakeford that it would have “serious economic and environmental consequences’’ for Wales.

Wales currently has the highest proportion of land area certified as organic in the UK.

In making the announcement about the new scheme, rural affairs minister Lesley Griffiths said she appreciated the “immense effort’’ it had taken for organic farmers to build businesses which were financially and environmentally sustainable.

“On such farms, the sustainable land management practices employed will undoubtedly have benefited the local ecology, often in areas vulnerable to biodiversity loss.

“I also understand, in many circumstances, the viability of organic holdings is dependent on receiving a premium for the organic produce, which is not always available.”

Applications for the payment will be made through the Single Application Form, due for submission by 15 May 2024.