Farmers in Wales say their industry's 'under attack'

Farming has been part of Wales' national identity for generations but over the past few years, the industry has had to cope with significant change.

At the moment, around 40% of Welsh lamb is sold abroad but the uncertainty of Brexit means farmers do not know where they will be selling their produce in the near future.

Plus, with climate change being a major issue of our time, more people in the UK have been opting for vegetarian or vegan meals than ever before.

80%

of the land in Wales is used for agriculture.

John Davies from the National Farmers' Union (NFU) said there is "massive pressure on the market place" in terms of Welsh farmers' standards and ability to trade with Europe.

He said, "We have a real challenge on the climate and we have a real challenge from big business".

I believe if we get it right there’s a real opportunity, but if we get it wrong, but if we get it wrong, there’s a really perfect storm coming.

John Davies, NFU

Experts have said that although farming can have a negative impact on the environment, it can also provide positive solutions.

Prof Dave Chadwick from Bangor University said he believes that, "livestock farmers although they’re being named as the culprits, they are the solution and they will adapt to the right kind of incentives."

He also said there has to be, "some kind of public acceptance" that farming will have an impact on the environment.

It’s very difficult to farm without any environmental impact.

Prof Dave Chadwick, Environment Centre Wales
There are 700 sheep at Rhodri Jones' farm in Bala. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

Rhodri Jones farms in Bala. He said his family farm is carbon neutral.

One element that Rhodri said helps is a blanket bog, which can store some greenhouse gas emissions.

Rhodri said, "Everything’s produced locally, it’s sold locally. So our footprint would be very, very small".

13%

of our carbon emissions in Wales come from agriculture.

Bryony Gittins has been looking after newborn lambs on her farm in Brecon. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

Bryony Gittins is another farmer trying to help the planet. She sees managing the environment and the countryside as an equally important part of her job as food production.

Before becoming a sheep farmer, Bryony did a zoology degree and she sees the importance of encouraging wildlife and biodiversity on her land. To achieve this, she has been maintaining a pond with frogspawn, and putting up bird boxes.

Bryony said, "Whether you’re a consumer, whether you're a farmer or whether you’re an environmentalist, I feel like we all kind of have the same goal and we’re all working in the same direction".

I’m a little bit saddened in people, in us as human beings that we all start targeting each other.

Bryony Gittins, Farmer
Lambing season has begun at Bryony's farm on the edge of the Brecon Beacons. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

In Pembrokeshire, one dairy farmer has developed an innovative approach to farming.

Owen Lort-Phillips has a robotic feeding machine, milking machine and slurry scraper.

The robotic milking system enables the cows to come in and milk when they want, as often as they want. It provides them with a safe space to get milked and provides them with a non-threatening routine.

Owen Lort-Phillips, Farmer
The cows at Owen's farm in Lawrenny are milked by a robot. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

The whole set up at Owen's farm, near the village of Lawrenny, cost more a million pounds. Owen was in a unique position to invest in it.

He said the main decision to go robotic was around the pressures of farming.

"I made a decision a long time ago that I could not possibly continue to either drive myself or the people who worked here through the same routine day in, day out".

You only get one life. There’s no point of working every day, every hour, coming home and barely seeing your children or friends and being too tired.

Owen Lort-Phillips, Farmer
A number of robots are used at this farm in Pembrokeshire. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

It can be very difficult for consumers to know what products to buy if they want to shop sustainably. But one expert from Cardiff University said eating foods that are in season and produced locally is the best way to help the environment.

Best thing is to buy seasonally, locally. That’s the food that’s in season where you live.

Angelina Sanderson Bellamy, Sustainability Expert

Find out more on ITV Wales This Week, Monday 9th March at 8pm on ITV Cymru Wales and online.