Renewal agreements for Glastir contracts could force many Welsh farms to reduce stocking rates or face a fodder deficit because they ban fertiliser use on land where a low level of inputs is currently permitted.

Farmers were not warned of this significant change to their contract terms and say that accepting it will make their farms less productive.

The compulsory change to no inputs for land on which farmers graze animals and produce fodder will have an impact on the numbers of animals a farm can keep throughout the year, insisted Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) policy officer Charlotte Priddy.

Farmers who had been offered contract extensions must now carefully consider whether their businesses will remain resilient and sustainable given such changes, she advised.

The timing is poignant in a year when the long dry spell demonstrated that anything that influences grass growth and harvests impacts on the feed available for livestock, both in terms of grazing and winter fodder, and therefore affects farm resilience and business viability.

“It stands to reason that such impacts would be exacerbated during years such as 2017 and 2018, in which extreme weather means additional fodder is required to feed animals during long housing periods, thereby further reducing farm resilience,’’ said Ms Priddy.

The problem, she said, had been compounded by farmers being given just weeks to consider and calculate the impacts to their businesses of all low-input fields becoming no-input fields.

“Such impacts include whether reductions in livestock numbers will be necessary over the coming months in order to compensate for the changes to contracts, and the likely impact on the offspring of animals which are already in-lamb or in-calf in terms of retaining or fattening such animals,’’ said Ms Priddy.

If farmers don’t accept the new contracts, letters they have received warn that ‘this could lead to termination and full recovery of payments previously made under your advanced contract’.

For those with Glastir advanced contracts which commenced after Glastir entry contracts, the changes mean they are being asked to make significant and possibly damaging changes to their businesses, or risk having to repay in full many years of Glastir advanced payments, said Ms Priddy.

“Yet there was no indication that such changes would effectively be forced upon them at short notice when Advanced contracts were originally offered and signed,’’ she pointed out.

A Welsh Government spokesperson said some ‘options’ had been adjusted to reflect the Welsh Government’s Rural Development Programme, which was agreed with the European Commission (EC) in 2015.

“These are being applied for those contracts being extended, as was the case for previous Glastir extensions,’’ said a government spokeswoman.

“If farmers don’t want to continue with these options, they should contact Rural Payments Wales directly.’’

RPW had written to all farmers eligible for a Glastir advanced contract renewal in August with a FAQ document to explain these changes and the deadlines to accept the renewed contracts, the spokeswoman added.

“The period the RPW online system was unavailable was factored into this timescale for accepting the contracts,’’ she pointed out.