Why thousands of farmers are descending on Cardiff in protest

Credit: PA

Thousands of farmers are expected to descend on Cardiff Bay on Wednesday, in the biggest protest seen so far against the Welsh government's future subsidy plans.

Up to 100 tractors are expected to travel in convoy to the capital from Brecon, and busloads of farmers will join from around the country.

Many are angry at the Welsh government’s Sustainable Farming Scheme, which is under consultation until March 7.

The current proposals would see farmers required to ensure 10% of their land is woodland, with a further 10% earmarked for habitat, in order to be eligible for government subsidies.

ITV Wales Reporter Rhys Williams explains why Welsh farmers are angry about future subsidy plans proposed by the country's government

The scheme is supported by organisations such as Coed Cadw (the Woodlands Trust in Wales) and the Wildlife Trust and is part of the government’s attempts to tackle the nature and climate emergency.

A recent economic impact assessment commissioned by the Welsh Government found that the scheme could see a 10.8% reduction in livestock numbers and an 11% drop in labour numbers in the sector, equivalent to 5,500 jobs.

Its publication led to a series of mass meetings and protests across rural Wales which have slowly escalated.

In Wrexham, one man was arrested for criminal damage when tractors blockaded the office of Rural Affairs Minister Lesley Griffiths, while the first minister was heckled by protestors on a visit to a college in Rhyl, causing the building to be locked down.

Welsh Government’s Rural Affairs Minister Lesley Griffiths responds to comments made by the country's leader Mark Drakeford about Brexit, which upset farmers

In a sign of the political danger here for the Welsh Labour government, the Prime Minister Rishi Sunak publicly voiced his support for the protesting farmers last week, telling a small crowd of farmers outside the Welsh Conservative Party Conference in Llandudno that he had their backs.

The minister responsible for agricultural policy, Lesley Griffiths, told ITV News she was “sad” her relationship with farmers had deteriorated, but insisted the government was listening to them.

She said changes would be made to the scheme but refused to give details.

But that concession seems unlikely to dissuade the thousands travelling from every corner of Wales to the capital in tractors and buses. It could be the biggest protest outside the Senedd in its history.

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