By Debbie James

Early subsidy payments could be made to farmers in Wales whose businesses are under intense strain after weeks of dry weather.

The Welsh Government says it is exploring the possibility of making advance Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) payments to farmers but that these would only be made in cases where all checks had been completed on individual claims.

This proviso could result in payments not reaching those worst affected by the extreme weather conditions, although the government said it would continue to explore ways of ensuring any approach didn’t disadvantage some farmers relative to their neighbours.

Welsh farm leaders had called on the government to make early payments to help farmers contending with one of the hottest and driest summers in decades.

Other measures the government has agreed to include derogations on Glastir options with specific stocking rates, which are being considered on a case-by-case basis.

Government officials will also consider requests for derogations relating to Glastir rules on winter fodder, winter bedding and access to water.

Derogation requests must be made in writing or via the Rural Payments Wales (RPW) website. Requests should include full details, including field numbers and the options for which a derogation is required.

In Wales, the availability of water and grazing for livestock and the subsequent effect on crop growth has been unprecedented.

The severity of the situation is being felt first hand by farmers including NFU Cymru’s deputy president Aled Jones.

Both boreholes on his dairy farm near Caernarfon ran dry and, with mains water unable to cope with demand, he secured permission to extract water from a river.

Mr Jones has since located two new underground water sources and hopes to begin extracting water from those soon.

“The dry weather has been a massive problem for us,’’ he admitted.

The additional feed he has bought in to replace grazed grass and silage will add 2p per litre (ppl) to his cost of production this year.

“This adds up to £80,000 but we have to bear that to keep our cattle fed and watered properly,’’ he said.

Meanwhile, auctioneers are reporting a national shortage of straw.

A hard winter and a dry summer combined with the use of land to produce fuel for biodigesters and biomass, has created a market that is seeing record prices for straw.

Two recent auctions by Halls saw prices in some cases at double the level in comparison to last year.

At a sale for A & S Jones and W D Sykes at Bishops Castle, averages for spring wheat were £82.64/tonne and winter wheat £110.08/tonne. Winter barley went under the hammer for an average of £113.37/tonne and winter oats £102.59/tonne.

A second sale for J G Owen brought average prices of £97.76/tonne for winter wheat and £109.67/tonne for winter oats.