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Farming

Value of hedges in storing carbon below ground studied in soil project

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THE ROLE hedges play in capturing carbon and storing it in soils is being investigated as Farming Connect gathers soil samples from across Wales in an initiative that will provide important benchmarking data for farmers.

Data collection for the second year of the Welsh Soil Project is underway, and this time soil samples have also been taken from land within a metre from field hedges, in addition to within-field samples.

Dr Non Williams, Farming Connect’s Carbon Specialist Officer, said the aim is to compare soil carbon stocks within fields and under woody vegetation.

“We often get questions from farmers about this, and we hope that the results of this project will provide them with the answers,’’ she said.

“Estimating the soil carbon levels by hedges will help to highlight their importance for climate change mitigation.’’

Farmers have a key role to play in tackling climate change and soils can play an important part in that.

The Welsh Soil Project samples are being analysed ahead of Wales Climate Week in December.

Over 1,000 samples were taken from farms that are a part of Farming Connect’s Our Farms Network, which were then analysed for organic matter content and bulk density, as well as other measurements.

For uniformity, all samples were collected within the same period this autumn and from grass fields including permanent pasture, hay and silage fields, and reseeds.

“This project looks at how varying management intensities, along with geographical factors, are impacting soil carbon stocks across Wales.”

Soil was taken from multiple depths, from the top 10cm layer to a depth of 50cm.

Dr Williams, who is leading the project, is a speaker at a major soil science event in Belfast in December.

At the British Society of Soil Science and the Soil Science Society of Ireland Annual Conference, she will deliver a presentation on the preliminary results of the project.

Soil carbon and carbon in general are also themes at three Farming Connect Masterclasses taking place in February 2024.

Dr Williams, who will lead these workshops, said it will give farmers an opportunity to improve their understanding of the basics of carbon footprinting prior to carrying out a carbon audit for their farms.

“These interactive workshops will focus on breaking down the carbon jargon, allow farmers to learn about the significance of the carbon cycle to their farm, and how it can be influenced to help reduce the farm’s carbon footprint in the future,’’ she said.

The events will take place at Llety Cynin, St Clears, Carmarthenshire, on 6 February, at Elephant and Castle, Newtown, on 8 February, and at Nanhoron Arms Hotel, Nefyn on 20 February, all from 7.30pm to 9pm.

Further details on how to book a place can be found on the Farming Connect website.

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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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Farmers protest as Drakeford arrives to open engineering centre

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PROTESTS erupted as First Minister Mark Drakeford arrived at Coleg Llandrillo, Rhyl, to inaugurate a new engineering centre. Approximately 200 farmers breached the college gates, marking a significant escalation in their ongoing protests against proposed changes to farming subsidies by the Welsh government.

The confrontation on Wednesday (Feb 21) involved pushing and shoving as the farmers followed Mr. Drakeford into the premises, expressing their discontent over the Sustainable Farming Scheme (SFS) that mandates substantial alterations to their current practices. These changes include dedicating 10% of their land to tree planting and another 10% to wildlife habitats to qualify for governmental support.

This incident follows a contentious encounter earlier that day in Pentraeth, Anglesey, where a farmer confronted the First Minister, who attempted to evade the interaction. The protests are a culmination of growing frustration among the farming community, which has been vocal about the impracticality of the demands being made, especially concerning the running of their businesses and the feared increase in bureaucracy.

The Welsh government has defended its stance, asserting that the proposed changes are essential for both supporting farmers and addressing the escalating climate crisis. Officials argue that adaptation and a proactive role in environmental conservation are necessary conditions for receiving public funds.

Aled Jones, a farmer from Rowen, Conwy county, voiced the collective sentiment of the farming community, stating the necessity of unity to oppose what he perceives as misguided proposals by the First Minister. Similarly, Clare Morrilly from Overton, near Wrexham, highlighted the untenability of expecting farms to cede 20% of their productive capacity without dire consequences.

The protest at Coleg Llandrillo is part of a series of actions taken by farmers across Wales, including a significant disruption caused by a convoy of tractors and pickup trucks in west Wales and a gathering at a Welsh Labour leadership debate.

In response to the unfolding situation, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, speaking at the House of Commons, criticized the Welsh ministers’ approach, which he described as counterproductive. The Prime Minister emphasized the central government’s commitment to backing rural communities across the UK.

The debate extends into the political arena with Conservative MP for Ynys Môn, Virginia Crosbie, raising concerns over the potential economic impact of the Welsh government’s plans, including job losses and a £200m blow to the Welsh economy. She called for the agricultural budget to be ring-fenced to safeguard farmers and food security.

Cover Photo: Philip Ashe

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