Farmers' union ask Welsh government to re-think sustainable farming scheme causing 'anguish'

The Sustainable Farming Scheme is the Welsh Government's plan to replace EU farming subsidies, which Welsh farmers can no longer access after Brexit.

The National Farmers' Union have asked the Welsh minister for rural affairs to re-think plans to make farming greener.

The NFU Cymru met with Lesley Griffiths MS to discuss the sustainable farming scheme.

The Union says they've given her a list of policy recommendations to address the concerns and worries of thousands of farmers who have attended NFU Cymru roadshows and events over the past month.  

NFU Cymru President, Aled Jones says there is a "deep sense of anguish within the industry" over the plans.

The Sustainable Farming Scheme is the Welsh Government's plan to replace EU farming subsidies, which Welsh farmers can no longer access after Brexit.

It would mean farmers have to plant 10% of their land with trees, and a further 10% would become habitat for wildlife in order to get government payments to support their farms.

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

But farmers say the policy isn't fair, and have been protesting against them, including sending convoys of tractors to block Welsh roads.

The controversy attention of TV presenter Jeremy Clarkson , a farmer himself, who called the policy "completely daft."

The Top-Gear star began working his own fields at Diddly-Squat Farm in the west country in 2021, documenting his journey in the TV show Clarkson's Farm.

The union has raised concerns that the target, if implemented, could force farmers to give up land they use to grow crops in order to plant trees, meaning less food production.

A report commissioned by the Welsh government on the consultation of the scheme says it could mean 5,500 job losses.

It also says the Sustainable Farming Scheme could losing £200million from the sector.

The Welsh government says the report is not an assessment of the current consultation, while NFU Cymru calls it a "shocking scenario".

The Minister for Rural Affairs Lesley Griffiths said: “I meet with the farming unions regularly and I wanted to have a meeting as soon as possible after our Sustainable Farming Scheme roadshows and theirs had been completed.

Lesley Griffiths meeting with NFU representatives earlier today (Monday 19 February). Credit: Welsh Government

“I’d like to thank them for joining me today, it was good to hear the feedback they had from their events. We will consider this in addition to the feedback we’ve noted from our events.

“Many of the issues discussed were common with those we heard from the 3,200 farmers who’ve attended the Welsh Government events.

“I reiterated to them this is a genuine consultation. It is still open, and I would continue to urge people to take part and give us their views. We will consider every individual response.

“Once the consultation is over I will receive a detailed analysis of the responses, and as I’ve said before I would expect to make changes to the scheme as a result.

“It is vitally important people take part in the consultation. Please do find time to respond as your views matter.”

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