Royal Welsh Show 2023: Farmers to boycott Welsh Government subsidy scheme over tree-planting row

NFU president Aled Jones (R) and his deputy Abi Reader (L) said the tree-planting target won't work for many farmers. Credit: ITV Wales/PA Images/NFU

The First Minister has defended plans to force farmers to plant trees on 10% of their land in exchange for subsidies.

The tree-planting requirement is designed to help tackle climate change but the National Farming Union (NFU) Cymru say in practice, the scheme does not work for farmers.

Mark Drakeford has been speaking to ITV Wales on the opening day of the Royal Welsh Show in Llanelwedd, the biggest agriculture show in Europe.

He said: "We have to have a dialogue in which we are able to understand one another's perspectives.

"It's absolutely essential we grow more trees here in Wales in the future in order to be able to combat climate change.

The Welsh Government has their own target of planting 43,000 hectares of woodland by 2030 and want farmers to "play their part". Credit: PA Images

"We want to offer farmers first refusal on that. We'd like to pay them to play their part.

"We understand we need to do it in a way that works with the rest of the businesses that they run".

It comes as two senior farmers have revealed they will boycott the Welsh Government's farming subsidy scheme over plans to include tree planting targets.

The Sustainable Farming Scheme (SFS), which will replace EU farming subsidies, will require farmers to have at least 10% tree cover on their land.

Wales' Rural Affairs Minister says she doesn't want tree planting to be the focus of this year's RWS. Credit: PA Images

This is, in part, to help the Welsh Government meet their own target of planting 43,000 hectares of woodland by 2030.

Aled Jones, the president of the NFU Cymru, and his deputy, Abi Reader, have revealed they won't be taking part in the scheme because the proposals "are not going to work for their businesses".

Mr Jones said: “We need [to get] 100% of the farmers into the scheme because if you want to impact change at [that] scale you need a lot of farmers within it.

"If, for example, only half of the farmers in Wales joined the scheme you're not going to have impact at [that] scale."

NFU Cymru President Aled Jones says every farm is different and not all of them will be able to reach the 10% target. Credit: ITV Wales

The union has raised concerns over the target, if implemented, forcing farmers to give up land they would use to grow crops in order to plant trees.

The Welsh Government are yet to make a final decision on either whether there will be exceptions to the target within the SFS or how much money will be given to Welsh farms through the scheme.

It remains to be seen if other farmers will also take the same stance as Aled Jones and Abi Reader.

NFU Cymru Deputy President Abi Reader said: “We've set a statement, but it's not about whether others will follow. They're already with us.

Abi Reader says farmers remain in the dark about the level of incentive from the Welsh Government. Credit: ITV Wales

"We've all gone through this door together and it's about sending a very firm and clear message to the Welsh Government that we need to go back and look at this again.

"If we do not have all farmers taking up this scheme then it is a failure."

The SFS is yet to be finalised and the Welsh Government have been keen to emphasise that there is still plenty of conversations to be had about the final details.

Wales' Rural Affair Minister previously said she does not want tree plant to be the focus of this year's Royal Welsh Show.

Speaking to ITV Wales Lesley Griffiths said: "We've still got to have another consultation and many, many discussions.

"Being at the show this week is part of those discussions and everyone knows there will be a final consultation at the end of the year."

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know...