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Unions say Welsh Government’s farming plan needs more work



AFTER the Senedd passed the Welsh Government’s Agriculture Bill, Wales’s Rural Affairs Minister, Lesley Griffiths, gave the Senedd an outline of its new Sustainable Farming Scheme on Tuesday, July 12.
The Welsh Government devised the Agriculture Bill to guide how farming and agriculture will be managed in Wales. It will affect the food we eat, the environment, and farmers’ livelihoods.
The program encourages farmers to commit to reducing their carbon footprint, enhancing biodiversity, and supporting natural ecosystems. In exchange, farmers will qualify for financial assistance to offset the costs of implementing these practices.
By incentivizing farmers to adopt sustainable practices, the Welsh Government claims it will enable them to contribute to the long-term stability and sustainability of farms nationwide.
However, the Bill and the Scheme at its heart face challenges and dissent.
The focus on sustainable farming practices will force radical change on farmers. For example, they might need to decrease the use of certain pesticides or fertilizers. While this is likely positive for the land’s long-term health, it will decrease agricultural productivity. This could potentially impact the availability and variety of food produced in Wales.
The Bill’s social and cultural effects on farming communities could also be wide-reaching. Certain types of farming might become less economically viable. If that happens, adverse impacts on the Welsh language and harm to the rural economy and culture are all but inevitable.
The Sustainable Farming Scheme is a “carrot and stick” approach that Ministers hope will help achieve the Agriculture Bill’s broader priorities.
On its face, it aims to support farmers who prioritize sustainable and environmentally-friendly practices on their land.
A key element of the scheme is promoting tree planting. The Welsh Government wants all farmers who get payments from the SFS to use a minimum of 10% for tree planting.
On Tuesday, Lesley Griffiths acknowledged that NEWSsome flexibility would be required about the much-talked-about 10% tree cover requirement, stating that areas unsuitable for tree planting and being considered for exclusion from the total area used to calculate the 10% include existing inappropriate semi-natural habitats, including designated sites, deep peat; unplantable features such as scree and rock outcrops and tenanted land where tenants do not have the authority to plant trees.
However, the 10% tree-planting aim remains part of the scheme’s universal application.
Although farmers generally support the SFS’s aims, it regards the tree-planting element as unachievable, unsustainable, and unrealistic. The plan fails to account for the differing nature of Welsh landscapes, commercial reality and the conditions farmers experience.
NFU Cymru President Aled Jones said: “NFU Cymru remains supportive of Welsh Government’s overarching framework for the SFS arranged around universal, optional and collaborative tiers. Farmers will receive a baseline payment for carrying out universal actions. We are also clear that more work is needed on the universal actions to ensure they work for all active farmers in Wales, irrespective of location, sector and land tenure.
“NFU Cymru is extremely concerned and disappointed that Welsh Government appears to have doubled down on its 10% tree cover target (on areas Welsh Government considers suitable for tree planting) within the universal tier of the proposed scheme.
“In our response to the SFS outline proposals, NFU Cymru highlighted the broad range of issues associated with the 10% tree cover and 10% habitat targets. We remain clear that the challenges around these targets present a real barrier to scheme participation.
“Farmers will be prepared to plant hedges, shelterbelts, streamside corridors and field corners on appropriate areas of their farm but will not plant trees on their productive land.
“It will also be vital that the final consultation provides more detail on what exactly farmers will need to do and crucially what they can expect to be paid.”
“Family farms are the backbone of our rural and wider communities. We must have a scheme which delivers for our economy, landscape, language and culture, whilst also underpinning the top-quality food production, which makes our farmers the cornerstone of a food supply chain which sustains a multi-billion-pound food and drink industry and hundreds of thousands of jobs.”
FUW President Ian Rickman said: “The most important thing is to ensure this scheme is accessible and works for every farm. That includes the transition into the scheme, so any action taken to make that process smoother for farmers is welcome.”
“However,” Mr Rickman continued, “the scheme is at a critical stage. Further progress must result in a practical scheme that delivers economic, environmental and social sustainability and is workable for farms without harming Welsh food production.
“Further concessions are needed to prevent agricultural land important for food production and the sustainability of individual farm businesses from being planted with trees.
“We’ve been clear from the outset that food production and economic viability have to be considered equally to the environmental aspects of this scheme.”
Local MS Sam Kurtz, the Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for Rural Affairs, said: “The introduction of the SFS is the single most important change to Welsh agriculture in a lifetime, so it’s important that the Welsh Government get it right.
“It must be properly funded and sufficiently attractive to get farmers to sign up for the scheme. If not, everyone loses out: Welsh Government, farmers, the environment, and the Welsh public.
“While the Welsh Government have listened to calls on some aspects, their persistence with the arbitrary 10% tree coverage will cause real concern to Wales’ farmers, especially if it requires transferring food producing land to tree planting.
Suppose the Welsh Government does not provide specific information on why the 10% figure was chosen. In that case, it must be dropped in favour of a more flexible approach. One that considers the different types of farms in Wales and the different, and often better ways, to sequester carbon while producing high quality, environmentally sustainable food.”

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Farmers warned to not cut corners as pressure mounts to get work done



FARMERS will be under more pressure than ever during cultivation and harvesting this season, after challenging weather delayed operations, but the Wales Farm Safety Partnership (WFSP) warns that health and safety must not be compromised.

From the maintenance of machines before they are used to being aware of the height of overhead electricity cables, there are multiple considerations for farmers at what can be their busiest few months.

Brian Rees, a farmer who is also a trainer and mentor in health and safety at Farming Connect, gives advice on some of the key areas that must not be overlooked.

1.     Maintenance

It will often be the first time in months that some machines have been put to work so important maintenance assessments need to be done before they are operated.

Check brakes on tractors and implements and tyre pressures too.

Grease moving parts such as hitching systems.

Ensure that oil levels are high so that oil pressure isn’t lost when the machine is operating.

2.     Safe stop

When parking a vehicle, always apply the handbrake, engage the gear system in neutral, turn off the engine and remove the key.

If there is a loader or other implement on the front, always lower this before turning the engine off.

3.     Check stocks of in-cab items

Every farm vehicle, from tractors to combine harvesters, should have a first aid kit in its cab and also plenty of drinking water.

Most people now have a mobile phone and it is most important than ever to carry this during field work.

4.     Lone working

Technology has provided some important tracking tools for farmers working in isolated locations.

Apps such as Find My Friends and Life 360 provide live updates on where the phone – and farmer – are located.

Farmers should always let someone know where they are working and the approximate time they expect to return.

5.     Working on slopes

Keep vehicles in four-wheel drive and ensure the weight of the vehicle is on the gripping wheels – that means on the lower side of how the vehicle is positioned on the slope.

Having the correct tyre pressure is more important than ever when operating machines on more challenging terrain.

Always wear a seatbelt when in the cab.

6.     Using the road safely

Larger machines can straddle the highway on double carriageways so appropriate safety measures need to be taken, including having convoy vehicles to warn other motorists.

This is sensible on smaller country roads to, to avoid congestion or meeting oncoming vehicles when there is no room to pass, and to check the road ahead for potential obstructions.

Although there is no law dictating when slow-moving vehicles should pull over to allow other road users to pass, the guidance is to do so at the next appropriate spot when there are six vehicles behind.

7.     Beware of overhead power cables

Lines that have up to 32 kV of power must have a minimum ground clearance of at least 5.2m, and lines with up to 132 kV should be 6.7m or more from the ground.

What many farmers might not take into account though is that power cables can drop during hot weather, sometimes by half a metre, so this needs to be considered when working near them.

8.     Be seen on the highway

By law, farm vehicles must be fitted with a flashing beacon when they are travelling along an unrestricted dual carriageway but it is sensible to have this on a country road too, to warn other road users of a slow moving vehicle.

A second beacon might be needed if a tractor is towing a high-sided trailer or machine as the beacon, which must be seen from 360 degrees, could be obscured.

Never use a tractor’s working lights on the highway at night as the glare of these will cause dazzle for motorists travelling in front or behind.

9.     Keep children safe

Children should only ever be in a working area on a farm when they are 100% supervised by a responsible person who is not part of the working team.

Children under 13 should never ride in the cab of any agricultural machine.

10.  Fire prevention

Any dust or chaff on harvesting equipment presents a fire hazard so ensure that any these are blown off regularly to prevent build-up.

11.  Fatigue

The hours can be long during cultivation and harvesting so it is important to be aware of the signs of fatigue and to take a break when these start to set in.

It can be sensible to have changeovers of staff operating machines – for example in a harvesting situation, the combine or forage harvester operator will be working continuously while the tractor drivers might have the opportunity of a short break between loads. Switch between the two if the drivers have the relevant expertise.

12.  Protect against heat and sun

Harvesting ideally takes place when the weather is warm and sunny but with heat and sun come the need for frequent hydration and sun protection.

Drink plenty of water, wear sun cream and a hat, and keep arms and legs covered during the hottest part of the day.

13.  Be visible in the yards

Ensure that any pedestrians who are, for example directing drivers into pits, are wearing hi-vis clothing so that they can be clearly seen.

Minimise reversing manoeuvres; while these can’t be eliminated entirely they can be reduced and this is important as the biggest killer on farms is people being run over or crushed by a moving vehicle.

Some new models of tractors and trailers are now fitted with reversing alarms.

For more advice, come and see us at the RWAS Sustainable Grassland and Muck event at Trawscoed Farm on the 30th May 2024.

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Simon Hart calls for a Sustainable Farming Scheme that delivers



FURTHER delays to the introduction of new farming subsidies in Wales have met with a cautious welcome.

Following widespread protests from farmers, Welsh Labour Rural Affairs Secretary, Huw Irranca-Davies, has announced the Sustainable Farming Scheme will now be put on hold until 2026.

The decision has been welcomed by former Secretary of State for Wales Simon Hart MP. The candidate for Caerfyrddin says the Welsh government must now work closely with farmers – and not against them.

He said: “We are told this decision shows the Plaid Cymru / Welsh Labour Cooperation administration is listening to farmers concerns. In my opinion, they should have been listening to them from the get-go and these proposals should never have been included by Plaid Cymru as part of their co-operation agreement.

“Whilst I appreciate this pause gives the Welsh government more time to get this vital scheme right, it also prolongs uncertainty in an industry that is at the very heart of our economy.

“We now need to see real progress, with the Plaid Cymru / Welsh Labour cooperators working at pace, alongside people who know the industry, to deliver a scheme that brings real benefits to our farmers.”

After a series of delays, the Sustainable Farming System was meant to come into operation in April 2025.

Rules that meant 10% of land needed to be covered by woodland and 10% earmarked for wildlife habitat caused widespread protests and led to claims that 5,000 jobs could be lost from the industry.

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PAS launches search for farm employees deserving Long Service Awards



FARM and estate workers from Pembrokeshire, who have been employed on the land for 25 years or more, can be nominated for the Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society’s Farm Employee Long Service Award 2024.

The President and Trustees of the Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society wish to offer inscribed Awards to both male and female workers who have not received a Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society Farm Employee Long Service Award previously.

There were two recipients for the inscribed Awards at last year’s County Show: Darran Davies from Scleddau, Fishguard and Richard Davies from Treffgarn Owen, Haverfordwest.

The 2024 Long Service Awards presentation will take place on Wednesday, 14 August at 4pm, in the President’s Pavilion at the Pembrokeshire County Show and the Award recipient and guest will receive complimentary entry tickets to the show.

Adam Thorne, President of the Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society said, “It gives us great pleasure as a Society to reward those who have been employed for such a significant amount of time by one employer in the county. We recognise what an achievement this is and it deserves an award. We are very much looking forward to receiving applications for this year’s Long Service Award. The decision of the committee will be final.”

Conditions of the Award being given are:

1. The recipient must, on the first day of the Annual Show, have been in service for 25 years on the same farm continuously, or continuously in the service of the same employer within Pembrokeshire.   

2. The employer must be a member of the Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society for the present year.

For those eligible to apply please complete the online application form and return it by 31 July 2024. If you are unable to complete the form online please contact the Show office on: 01437 764331. To apply online please click here: Long Service Award | Pembrokeshire County Show | Pembs Agricultural Society (

Pembrokeshire County Show, the largest county agricultural show in Wales, will take place on 14 and 15 August 2024. Earlybird e-tickets and Society membership details are available on the website:

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