Controversial farming scheme delayed by a year, say Welsh Government

Thousands of farmers gathered outside the Senedd in Cardiff earlier this year in the biggest protest seen so far against the Welsh Government's future subsidy plans. Credit: PA

The introduction of the Welsh Government's sustainable farming scheme has been delayed by a year, it's been announced.

The new rural affairs secretary, Huw Irranca-Davies, confirmed the news at a visit to a farm in Bridgend today, 14 May.

Speaking at a press conference at Sealands Farm in Bridgend, the Cabinet Secretary thanked farmers for their "candour", saying that the change of timings was part of his "commitment to meaningful engagement with the farming sector."

He said: “Since the first day of taking up this role I have been out and about meeting and listening to our farmers, hearing their views and taking on board what they have to say.

“My commitment to meaningful engagement with the farming sector, Plaid Cymru colleagues under the Cooperation Agreement and other stakeholders on the changes needed will necessitate a change in the implementation timetable.

"We have always said the Scheme would not be introduced until it is ready and I stand by that."

Farmers in Wales have a series of grievances with the Welsh Government which have led to protests. Credit: PA

He then confirmed that the Basic Payment Scheme would continue to be available in 2025, with the proposed SFS (Sustainable Farming Scheme) transition period starting from 2026, with an announcement to follow on the BPS ceiling.

Existing rural investment schemes, such as the small grants schemes, will continue to support infrastructure changes, say the Welsh government.

The government also claimed they will also work on a new landscape scale scheme which will build on the experience of previous collaboration schemes.

This new timeframe will give the opportunity to work through a number of important aspects.

Back in February, thousands of farmers descended on the Senedd in Cardiff Bay to protest against the controversial proposals, which see farmers having to meet strict environmental targets in return for government funding.

The Welsh Conservatives said the statement from Mr Irranca-Davies was "encouraging."

"It’s a positive step to see that the Minister has listened to the industry, the unions, and all those thousands of people who responded to the consultation", said James Evans MS, Shadow Rural Affairs Minister.

“However, what we need to see is real change to SFS in its current form.

"The farmers I speak to have major concerns about tree planting, common land, tenant farmers, and we need to have more detail from the cabinet secretary over amendments he is going to make to the scheme to make sure we have something that works for our farmers, and not against them, and safeguards the future of the industry.”

Plaid Cymru said it welcomed the “pragmatic and sensible approach” of the new Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs.

Plaid Cymru’s Rural Affairs spokesperson Llyr Gruffydd MS, said:

“We’ve always said that the one-size-fits-all figure of 10% tree cover will not work for many farm types and farm locations.

"There is now a recognition that this needs flexibility and that other ways of capturing carbon must be considered.

I urge the Government to ensure that the Roundtable which will consider alternative approaches includes those with farming experience. They are the ones who know best what will work on the ground."

A spokesperson from WWF Cymru called the development "disappointing."

"It's deeply worrying. The nature and climate emergencies aren't going to let up", said Policy and Advocacy Manager Alexander Phillips.

"We already know that extreme weather events linked to climate change are costing Welsh farmers tens of millions of pounds a year, and one of the primary aims of this scheme was to help farmers combat climate change and mitigate its impacts.

"So the delay in this scheme will lengthen action and damage opportunities to get towards our national targets such as net zero."

More to follow...

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