Farmers fear being 'scapegoated' as the Welsh Government pledges £1 million to tackle climate change

High levels of ammonia emissions have been attributed to the cattle industry in particular. Credit: ITV Wales Cymru

Farmers in Wales have claimed they are being made "scapegoats" of the climate change battle as the Welsh Government announced £1 million in funding to help them reduce ammonia emissions from livestock.

The Welsh Government says it hopes the funding will "lessen the harmful impacts of the pollutant on the land and in the atmosphere".

However, high levels of ammonia emissions have been attributed to the cattle industry in particular.

The president of the National Farmers' Union in Wales, Aled Jones, said: "We were the first farming organisation in the world to set the ambitious goal of reaching net zero greenhouse gas emissions for agriculture by 2040.

"At the same time as reducing our impact on the climate, we should not reduce our capacity to feed consumers with high quality, affordable Welsh food."

Mr Jones said he was talking about farmers like Tom Rees from the Vale of Glamorgan.

A recent carbon audit of his business, undertaken in conjunction with Castell Howell Foods and NFU Energy, revealed that his farm emits 26% less carbon than the average British beef enterprise.

Tom's farm emits 26% less carbon than the average British beef enterprise.

The study also showed that the hedgerows and woodlands on his land sequestered 50% of the carbon his farm emits.

Mr Rees said: "I think my farm is typical of most Welsh farms.

"Ok, we've reduced the amount of chemical fertiliser that we are buying, and making more use of our own farmyard manure on the land.

"We're planting more clover ley - a plant which produces better silage and cuts down on importing cattle feed over the winter.

"But we aren't doing anything vastly different to other farms in Wales.

"My message to anyone is to come out onto farm, see what farmers are doing out there already to tackle climate change, and listen to what we've got to say."

The Welsh Government has today announced one million pounds in funding to help Welsh farmers reduce ammonia emissions from livestock.

Rural Affairs Minister Lesley Griffiths said tackling ammonia emissions in Wales is an important issue.

"We know most ammonia emissions come from the agriculture sector, and so the challenge we are putting to businesses is primarily focussed on this," she said.

"I encourage everyone with an interest in making a real difference to how we address this matter to apply for support.”

The minister's comments come just hours after the conclusion of the NFU Cymru conference in Llandrindod Wells, which focused on the efforts of farmers in the fight against climate change.

Rural Affairs Minister Lesley Griffiths says tackling ammonia emissions in Wales is an important issue.

Dr Michelle Cain, who analyses environmental data at Cranfield University, said the biggest contributor to global warming is burning fossil fuels.

"We have data of all the different emissions in Wales, and agriculture is one of the main sectors. So there are greenhouse gas emissions associated with Welsh farming."

The Climate Change Committee, an independent body advising the UK and devolved governments on emissions targets, says that the carbon footprint of Welsh agriculture must get smaller. However, it argues that farmers cannot act without more cash.

"I don't want to see Welsh farmers thrown under the bus in the race to net zero," said Dr Niki Rust, on behalf of the organisation.

She added: "We have to support them along the way. Farmers need more money to help them transition.

"Yes, that can come from Government, but we are seeing that the purse strings are very tight right now. So we are going to have to rely on the private sector to have some of that funding as well."

Many farmers claim they are being made the "scapegoats" of the climate change battle, and "unfairly identified" as the "sole cause for a warming planet."

They are also looking to the political parties for financial incentives to help them improve their environmental credentials, and as the UK edges ever closer to a general election next year, they will be closely scrutinising manifesto commitments to future funding for farmers.

Only with budget commitments, they say, can their food; climate and environmental ambitions be realised.

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