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Farming

Welsh Government urged to safeguard next generation of farmers

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The Council for Awards of Royal Agricultural Societies (CARAS) Cymru annual conference delivered a rousing plea to the Welsh Government to ensure that the Sustainable Farming Scheme safeguards the next generation.

Seeing the Wood from the Trees delivered an analysis of the Welsh Government’s proposals, including the 10% planting of trees requirement.

The conference, held at the Royal Welsh Showground, took up Welsh Government director of rural affairs, Gian Marco Currado’s request for feedback on the scheme.

CARAS Cymru vice chair, Mansel Raymond, summed up the mood by stressing that the Sustainable Farming Scheme is critical for the future of Welsh agriculture. He said young people needed to be encouraged to grow food that is in world demand.

It was important not to curtail what Welsh farmers have done over the years. Income foregone was not an option when the scheme is demanding that farmers do more.

“There seems, all of a sudden, to be a massive disconnect between the farming fraternity and our masters,” said Mr Raymond. “That is something we have to change. This industry cannot afford to fall.

“If we lose production, if we lose that mass, the whole fabric of the industry will be lost and we’ll have to start from the bottom. The future of food production in Wales is important.”

The conference was chaired by past Royal Welsh Agricultural Society (RWAS) president and former NFU Cymru president, John R. Davies who said: “The key things we’ve got to do as a nation are to protect and feed ourselves.

“As farmers there is food production running through each and every one of us. It’s an absolutely crucial time for the future of Welsh agriculture and I’m incredibly pleased to have the panel we have here today.

“We’ve always been keen on having policy made in Wales, for Wales by Wales.”

Dr Nick Fenwick, formerly FUW head of policy, suggested there was an array of solutions to climate change, rather than a blanket 10% tree cover target. Around 30% of Welsh emissions come from energy production, about double the footprint for agriculture. It is estimated that, over the next 25 years, the amount of energy needed in Wales would increase five-fold.

He stressed that farming is part of the solution, as the biggest contributor to green energy production which reduces agriculture’s carbon footprint. He illustrated his point by explaining that a 330 meters square area of solar panels would reduce carbon emissions by the same amount as a hectare of trees, as would a 10 kw water turbine or a 15 kw wind turbine.

Dr Fenwick urged: “Basically, solar panels are between 30 and 50 times more effective per unit area than tree planting in terms of reducing carbon emissions.

“So we have something that could complement tree planting, negate the need for tree planting on valuable farm land and form part of a far bigger equation, whereby we’re reducing Wales’s carbon footprint. But we’re not doing it by an arbitrary 10% tree cover target, resulting in vast areas of agricultural land.

“Nor should we start plastering Wales with solar panels. Basically, you’re talking about maybe the roof of a couple of farm sheds having the same impact as two or three hectares of trees.”

NFU Cymru deputy president, Abi Reader, warned of the catastrophic changes the scheme could bring to farming businesses. Referring to the ADAS Impact Report, she added: “You have 5,000 jobs that will be lost. We’ve got our 122,000 grazing livestock that are going to be removed from Wales if we have 100% uptake under the scheme.

“So, over 5,000 jobs coupled with the loss of nearly £200 million of farm incomes throughout Wales. What is that going to do Welsh agriculture, what will that do to our communities?”

Mr Currado and Bangor University senior lecturer in environmental management, Dr Prysor Williams each delivered their perspective on sustainable farming and the new scheme proposals.

Mr Currado said the Welsh Government was committed to the whole farm approach and looking for a collaborative approach to the Sustainable Farm Scheme consultation. He encouraged farmers to feed in their views and offer alternative solutions.

Farming

Conservatives challenge Welsh Government over farming scheme

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THE WELSH CONSERVATIVES have announced a debate in the Senedd, scheduled for July 17, 2024, focusing on the importance of Welsh farming and challenging the Welsh Labour Government’s approach to agricultural policy. The debate comes in the wake of ongoing concerns over the proposed Sustainable Farming Scheme (SFS) and its impact on the farming community.

The motion, brought forward by the Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for Rural Affairs, James Evans MS, aims to highlight the critical role of farming in Wales. Evans criticised the Welsh Labour Government’s handling of agricultural issues, stating that the current SFS does not adequately support farmers and overlooks the essential contributions of the farming sector to the Welsh economy and rural communities.

“Labour continues to take our farmers for granted,” Evans said. “Unlike Labour, the Welsh Conservatives would make sure we have a Sustainable Farming Scheme that works for our farmers, not against them, safeguarding the future of our crucial industry.”

The motion to be debated reads:

  1. Celebration of Economic Contribution: The Senedd is urged to celebrate the valuable economic contribution of Welsh farming to the economy.
  2. Support for Rural Events: The motion acknowledges the benefits of events like the Royal Welsh Show and the National Eisteddfod in supporting rural communities and promoting Welsh culture and language.
  3. Opposition to Current SFS: It supports the strong opposition within the agricultural community against the current SFS, reinforcing the message “no farmers, no food.”
  4. Call for Government Action:
  • Ensure the new SFS has the support of the farming community, with food security and environmental protection at its core.
  • Work with the UK Government to expand on its minimal mention of farming in the general election manifesto and develop a comprehensive plan for farming across the UK.

The Welsh Labour Government has faced significant backlash over the SFS, particularly the requirements for farms to have at least 10% tree cover and 10% of land managed as semi-natural habitats. Farmers argue that these measures could take substantial portions of their land out of production, jeopardising their livelihoods.

Huw Irranca-Davies, Welsh Cabinet Secretary for Climate Change and Rural Affairs, has acknowledged these concerns and announced revisions to the SFS. The revised scheme, set to commence in 2026 with a preparatory phase in 2025, aims to balance environmental sustainability with economic viability. However, the Welsh Conservatives argue that more needs to be done to ensure the scheme truly supports farmers.

The upcoming debate is expected to be a crucial platform for discussing these issues and pushing for a more farmer-friendly approach to agricultural policy in Wales.

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Farming

Welsh Government revises Sustainable Farming Scheme after protests

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WELSH Cabinet Secretary for Climate Change and Rural Affairs, Huw Irranca-Davies, has announced that the Sustainable Farming Scheme (SFS) will commence in 2026, following a preparatory phase in 2025. This phase is intended to provide advice and support to farmers in advance of the scheme’s full implementation.

The SFS, which aims to create a sustainable agricultural sector in Wales, has been the subject of intense debate and protests from the farming community. Protests have been held across Wales, with significant demonstrations in March and April 2024. Farmers have raised concerns over the feasibility and financial implications of the scheme, particularly the requirements for farms to have at least 10% tree cover and 10% of land managed as semi-natural habitats. Many fear that these rules could take up to 20% of their land out of production, impacting their livelihoods.

In response to these concerns, Irranca-Davies published the Welsh Government’s revised plan on July 11, 2024. The consultation titled ‘Sustainable Farming Scheme: Keeping Farmers Farming’ received extensive feedback, leading to several key revisions:

  1. Revised Tree Cover Requirements: The 10% tree cover requirement has been clarified to apply only to suitable land, excluding areas unfit for planting or beyond a farmer’s control. This adjustment aims to reduce the burden on farmers while still promoting environmental benefits.
  2. Extended Timeline: The full implementation of the SFS is now scheduled for 2026, with a preparatory phase in 2025. This phase will offer advice and support to farmers to help them transition to the new scheme.
  3. Collaborative Development: The Welsh Government has established a Ministerial Roundtable to further engage with the farming community and other stakeholders. This forum will help shape the final design and implementation of the SFS, ensuring that it reflects the needs and concerns of all parties involved.
  4. Support and Stability Payments: During the transition period, farmers will receive Stability Payments to maintain their income levels. This measure is intended to mitigate financial instability as they adapt to the new requirements.
  5. Ongoing Consultation: The Carbon Sequestration Evidence Panel will continue to review and consider alternative proposals to enhance carbon sequestration within the scheme. The Government will provide periodic updates on the progress of these consultations throughout the year.

Irranca-Davies acknowledged the concerns raised by farmers, stating, “I know that this has been an unsettling time for many farmers and their families. We will continue to work at pace to finalise the scheme so that we can provide certainty about future support as soon as possible. By working together, we can ensure a sustainable agriculture industry in Wales for generations to come.”

Environmental groups such as RSPB Cymru and the Nature Friendly Farming Network support the scheme, emphasising the necessity of sustainable practices in the face of climate change. They argue that the revised scheme balances environmental stewardship with agricultural productivity.

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Farming

FUW sends message to Starmer for a fair annual funding for Welsh agriculture

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THE Farmers’ Union of Wales will waste no time in sending a clear message to the incoming UK Labour Government at Westminster that Wales seeks a fair, annual funding settlement of £450 million in EU CAP legacy funding to support food production, the rural economy and the work farmers do for the environment.

Winning a landslide general election at a time when Welsh farming faces an important crossroads, the UK Labour Party now has the opportunity to influence the future of rural Wales for decades to come.

Speaking in response to the results, FUW President Ian Rickman said: “Firstly, I would like to congratulate the newly elected Prime Minister and his party for a historic general election victory, and thank those MPs we have worked closely with over the past five years.

“This election has brought about considerable change to the political landscape of Wales, with a significant reduction in the number of constituencies, changes in boundaries, and now a new UK Labour Government holding a majority in Westminster.

“The FUW is not affiliated to any political party and is therefore prepared to engage and work with politicians from all parties to ensure the voices of Welsh farmers are heard.”

The FUW General Election Manifesto sets out the Union’s key priorities of the incoming government, focussing on securing a fair, multi-annual funding settlement of at least £450 million per year in EU CAP legacy funding for agriculture and rural development in Wales. The role of this support in underpinning food production, environmental protection and rural communities in Wales cannot be underestimated.

It is essential that the newly elected UK Government ensures that any future deals with other countries and trading blocs take a far more robust approach that protects UK farmers and food security. With that, food imports and exports must be subject to the same custom and standard controls which provides a level playing field between UK and EU producers.

The Union’s Manifesto also calls on the UK Government to introduce procurement policies that prioritise public body support for Welsh and British businesses and promote a more transparent supply chain.

“Whilst the direction of farming in Wales heavily depends on the development of devolved agricultural policies, we must not forget how decisions made by the incoming UK administration will effectively determine the degree of funding the Welsh Government has available to support agriculture and rural development. It will also rule the extent of which Welsh producers are expected to compete against producers in other UK nations and across the globe on various levels.

“This is why we will waste no time in contacting the newly elected MPs in Wales and those that take on influential roles in parliament to ensure that we outline our key priorities at an early stage.

“Despite the challenge of navigating an ever changing political landscape, our role as the FUW in lobbying governments for the best possible outcomes for Welsh agriculture remains constant and relentless,” said Ian Rickman.

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