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Farming

‘Greening’ measures reviewed

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greenNFU CYMRU is pleased to have learned that Welsh Government will allow hedges, stone walls and nitrogen fixing crops to count towards greening measures under new CAP rules being introduced from 2015. 

The Welsh Government has announced that hedges, stone walls, short rotation coppice, afforested land, fallow land and nitrogen fixing crops such as peas and beans will count towards the five per cent requirement for the new environmental Ecological Focus Area (EFA) required under CAP rules by farmers from 2015. Whilst a significant proportion of farmers in Wales will automatically qualify for the greening element of Pillar 1 support as a result of the majority of their farm being under permanent grassland, farmers who will be required to introduce EFA areas in 2015, have been concerned at how much land they would need to take out of food production. NFU Cymru Combinable Crops Board Chairman, Perkin Evans said, “I am pleased that Welsh Government has made the sensible and pragmatic decision to include hedges and stone walls in the range of options Welsh farmers can use to meet EFA requirements in 2015. Arable fields in Wales generally tend to be quite small compared to the UK and EU average being surrounded by hedges or walls, it is important that these features, that form part of the land we farm, can count towards these new EFA’s. This decision will reduce the amount of land that farmers will need to take out of production to comply with EFA rules as well as delivering positive benefits to the environment. “We recognise that mapping and registering these features will create additional work for farmers and for Government and we will need to work together to get this mapping completed in time for the 2015 application period. “Allowing nitrogen fixing crops such as peas and beans to count towards EFA will also be a relief to our members and now that this decision has been made it gives the arable sector an opportunity to plan for 2015 cropping. “Despite these decisions NFU Cymru members will be disappointed that Welsh Government has not allowed for catch and cover crops to count towards EFA, we will continue to press for these and additional landscape features to be included from 2016. At an EU level we will continue to press for changes to EFA and crop diversification rules at the earliest opportunity.” The written statement by Alun Davies, Minister for Natural Resources and Food, has also provided some further information on how entitlements will be allocated in 2015, the young farmer scheme and national reserve as well as a technical review process for farmers who believe that their land has been incorrectly classified within the new payment region classifications. Rural Payments Wales (RPW) will be writing to farmers in July to provide further detail on all these issues. NFU Cymru President, Stephen James said, “As we receive the detail on how the new CAP will be implemented in Wales from 2015 it is imperative that we all consider carefully how these changes will impact on our farming businesses. I would urge you all to read carefully the information that RPW will be sending out in the coming weeks, to seek clarification where necessary and if you are considering appealing against your regional land classification to make sure that you do it within the strict deadlines that will be set by RPW.”

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Farming

Sunak backs Welsh farmers in subsidy protest at Conservative Conference

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PRIME MINISTER Rishi Sunak has publicly expressed his support for Welsh farmers protesting against proposed changes to farm subsidies by the Labour-led Welsh government. The declaration came during the Welsh Conservative conference in Llandudno, where Sunak, alongside Pembrokeshire-based MS Sam Kurtz—who notably climbed onto a tractor in solidarity—met with protesting farmers, including campaigner Gareth Wyn Jones.

Addressing the concerns outside the conference venue, Sunak reassured the agricultural community, stating, “We’re going to do everything we can because we’ve got your back.” The farmers’ grievances stem from the Welsh government’s proposals, which include mandating the allocation of 10% of agricultural land for forestry and an additional 10% for wildlife habitat as part of the Sustainable Farming Scheme aimed at combating climate change. The Welsh government has defended its stance, emphasizing the scheme’s flexibility and the ongoing consultation process.

Sam Kurtz MS climbed into a tractor parked outside Venue Cymru (Image: Gareth Lewis/BBC)

The protest actions have escalated recently, with a significant demonstration expected in Cardiff next week. Amidst these developments, Sunak critiqued the Welsh government’s approach, highlighting the broader discontent with policies such as the controversial 20mph speed limit and perceived mismanagement in health and education sectors. In his speech, Sunak accused the Labour party of treating Wales as a “laboratory” for untested policies, causing “enormous anger” among the Welsh people.

The prime minister also addressed the economic outlook, citing reductions in inflation and energy prices and the initiation of mortgage rate declines as evidence of positive direction under his leadership. He leveraged the opportunity to criticize Labour’s immigration and environmental policies, contrasting them with the Conservative government’s achievements and future plans.

Controversially, Sunak’s support for the protesting farmers comes at a time when the UK government has been tightening legislation against disruptive protests. This stance raises questions about the potential implications of backing such protests, especially with a planned farmer demonstration in Cardiff, which, while expected to be orderly, poses a political risk for Sunak if it leads to disruption.

In response, the Welsh government has highlighted its commitment to supporting the agricultural sector, maintaining the Basic Payment Scheme at £238m in 2024, and developing the Sustainable Farming Scheme in partnership with the farming community to offer stability and support to all Welsh farmers.

The political discourse surrounding these protests and Sunak’s involvement illustrates the complex interplay between agricultural policy, environmental initiatives, and political strategy in Wales. As the situation unfolds, the impact of Sunak’s support for the farmers, against the backdrop of the UK’s post-Brexit agricultural policy landscape, remains to be seen, marking a critical moment in the ongoing debate over the future of farming and environmental stewardship in Wales.

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Farming

Police warn of disruption to traffic as farmers protests take place

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FARMERS protests are taking place in Aberystwyth and Carmarthen today (Feb 22.)

The police took to Facebook on Thursday morning saying: “We are aware of potential disruption to traffic in Carmarthen and Aberystwyth town centres from midday today.

“The traffic network in and out of the towns may also be affected.

“If you are planning on travelling in those areas today, please consider changing your route or journey time to avoid delays.

“We will update when we have further information.”

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Farming

Welsh Conservatives challenge Sustainable Farming Scheme in Senedd

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THE WELSH CONSERVATIVES have tabled a motion for debate in the Senedd, aiming to overturn the controversial Sustainable Farming Scheme (SFS) proposals put forward by the Labour Government. The motion, scheduled for discussion next Wednesday, 28th February, calls for the abolition of the requirement for a 10% tree cover on farms and the scrapping of the current SFS proposals, amidst concerns over their impact on Wales’ agricultural sector and rural communities.

According to the Labour Government’s economic impact assessment, the implementation of the SFS could lead to a drastic reduction of 122,200 in Welsh livestock numbers, the loss of 5,500 jobs, and a £199 million hit to the rural economy. These figures have fueled the argument that the scheme could devastate rural communities across Wales.

Sam Kurtz: Unhappy with proposed farming scheme

Samuel Kurtz MS, the Welsh Conservative Shadow Rural Affairs Minister, has been vocal in his criticism of the scheme. He stated, “The economic analysis of the Sustainable Farming Scheme speaks for itself. With the projected loss of livestock, jobs, and significant economic damage, it’s clear that the SFS will decimate Wales’ rural communities.” Kurtz accused the Labour Government of neglecting the importance of the farming industry to Wales’ economy, society, culture, and language, and of ignoring the widespread opposition to the SFS within the agricultural community.

The motion presented by the Welsh Conservatives outlines the significant concerns surrounding the SFS, including the estimated reductions in livestock numbers, job losses on Welsh farms, and the consequent economic downturn. It also highlights the agricultural community’s strong opposition to the scheme and cites a poll commissioned by the Country Land and Business Association in Wales, which found that only 3% of Welsh farmers trust the Welsh Government’s handling of the issue.

In a bid to address these concerns, the motion calls on the Welsh Government to remove the tree cover requirement and to scrap the current SFS proposals. Furthermore, it urges the government to re-engage with the farming sector to develop a new scheme that garners the support of the farming community.

The debate, which is a crucial moment for the future of farming in Wales, is set to commence at approximately 5.30 pm on Wednesday, 28th February, in the Welsh Parliament. This marks a significant effort by the Welsh Conservatives to align with the farming sector and challenge what they see as detrimental policies towards rural Wales.

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