Confor has met with Alun Davies, Wales deputy minister for agriculture, food, fisheries and European programmes to press the case for significant improvement to the forestry grant scheme, Glastir.|
Kath was accompanied by Andrew Bronwin, chair of the Wales Forestry Business Partnership. Together they outlined recent work commissioned by Confor and WFBP, which reviewed Government policy and strategy papers, and which identified there was a wide-ranging role for forestry within a sustainable development agenda.
The current situation, where forestry policy comes under one minister and the administration of forestry grants to the private sector under a different minister, has caused confusion and delay. Confor’s Wales manager Kath McNulty said, “The two departments are in effect playing political ping-pong with forestry and the buck doesn’t stop at either of the ministers.” She added, “Confor will continue to lobby for a clear consistent approach to forestry.”
The deputy minister stated that he wants to support the sector, understands the need for forestry management to be economic and recognises the important role of timber production.
“The deputy minister was interested in what we had to say”, explained Andrew. “I set out our concern that Glastir would neither deliver the aims of the Welsh Government, nor would it deliver the needs of woodland owners. The previous grant scheme did, but trying to fit forestry into an agricultural scheme simply does not work.”
Kath and Andrew also explained how the grant scheme was too narrowly drawn.
“Government needs to fund five pump-priming activities: infrastructure to access woodland; timely formative pruning and cleaning; first thinning; restocking; and control of pests and diseases”, said Kath. “We left him with a copy of the document, Delivering woodlands for Wales – The gaps, produced by Confor on behalf of the sector in December 2010 to inform the Glastir process.”
The minister and his senior civil servant expressed surprise at these and other problems with Glastir that Kath and Andrew raised, and the minister invited Confor to make a submission to a stock-take of Glastir.
“This was a very useful first meeting and also provided an opportunity for us to press the case for CAP reform to support increased new planting”, said Kath. “However, it is clear that we will need to follow it up if there is to be any likelihood of significant improvement to Glastir.”