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Agriculture reforms could have disproportionate effect on Welsh speakers – campaigners warn

28 Feb 2024 5 minute read
Farmer in a field.

Emily Price

Language campaigners have raised fears that Welsh Government post-Brexit agriculture reforms will have a disproportionate effect on Welsh speaking communities.

Cymdeithas yr Iaith has today called on the Welsh Government to cooperate with farmers and consider the implications for the Welsh language.

Thousands of frustrated farmers are expected in Cardiff Bay today to protest against farm subsidy proposals which have been branded ‘unworkable’.

A consultation is underway for the new Sustainable Farming Scheme (SFS) which will be rolled out in 2025.

It will replace previous grant funding when Wales was part of the European Union.

The scheme will require farmers to farm sustainably by bringing their existing tree and woodland cover up to 10% – and earmark another 10% for habitat.

Farmers say this would never be practical whilst running a farm business and unions say the tree cover requirement represents a “major barrier” to scheme entry.

Cooperate

Cymdeithas yr Iaith campaigns for Welsh speakers rights to use the language in everyday aspects of life.

According to the movement, the job losses that would result from the scheme in its current form would worsen other problems facing rural Welsh-speaking communities, including depopulation and a shortage of affordable houses to buy and rent.

Robat Idris, Deputy Chair of Cymdeithas yr Iaith’s Sustainable Communities Group, said: “43% of workers in the agricultural sector are Welsh speakers, the highest of any industry in Wales and it is an industry that is particularly strong in the language’s strongholds.

“Associated businesses are also among those who make the most use of the Welsh language. We share farmers’ concerns about job losses in the field as a result of the Government’s Sustainable Farming Plan, as is being warned by agricultural unions.

“The farming industry as it is is not sustainable unless farms turn into agri-businesses, and lose contact with the land. The Government’s plans could intensify the problem and force more farmers from the land, exacerbating depopulation which is already a problem due to a lack of houses to buy and rent within the reach of people on local wages.

“We are also concerned that non-agricultural land in Wales is being bought by foreign companies who want to take advantage of grants to plant trees, in order to sell the carbon credit to companies with a high carbon footprint. This sacrifices the farms of Wales on the public relations altar of polluting industries, which are given free rein.

“There is also the danger that all this will be lost as some take advantage of the farmers’ protest to push an anti-devolution and right-wing agenda.”

Legislation

According to Cymdeithas yr Iaith, a number of elements in the SFS would go against any long-term vision and action to maintain the economy and culture of Wales as well as the Welsh language.

They say this is contrary to the government’s aim of one million Welsh speakers by 2050 as well as the Well-being of Future Generations Act.

The organisation has questioned the purpose of this legislation if Welsh Government policies and fiscal decisions undermine them.

The uncertainty around the future of agricultural support in Wales comes against a backdrop of continuous bovine TB breakdowns and the slaughtering of thousands of Welsh cattle every year.

This is in addition to an all-Wales approach to bureaucratic pollution regulations which will cost the industry in excess of £400m to comply with.

Robat Idris said: “Nobody is satisfied with the current situation, so when revisiting and revising the scheme, the Welsh Government must listen to and work together with farmers to ensure there are no negative implications for communities.

“A truly inspiring vision could include methods of supporting not only farmers but also the wider society – it’s high time to reconnect people with the food on their plates.

“We see no future for family farms in the long term without us restoring the relationship between country and town in order to supply the environmental and social blessings of having healthy food produced here. That would be a real Green Wales.”

The Welsh Government says the scheme has been designed to keep farmers on the land in recognition that food production is vital for the nation.

The SFS consultation is in its final days and the Welsh Government has urged farmers to take part.

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “Farming is very important to Wales and our economy and we want a successful future for Welsh farming.

“We have had a seven-year conversation with farmers to design future farming support and we are committed to continuing to working with farmers to develop the Sustainable Farming Scheme. This is a genuine consultation and no decisions will be taken on any element of the proposal, including how we achieve the requirement for habitat and trees, until we have conducted a full analysis of the consultation responses.

“The Scheme looks to reward farmers for actions which align with the Sustainable Land Management objectives set out in The Agriculture (Wales) Act 2023. This includes conserving and enhancing the countryside and cultural resources and promoting public access to and engagement with them, and to sustain the Welsh language and promote and facilitate its use.

“We have been clear we expect changes to be made following the consultation, and we will continue to listen.”


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Stevie B
Stevie B
1 month ago

Any farmer in Cymru that voted for Brexit has lost their right to protest against the reforms!

Ernie The Smallholder
Ernie The Smallholder
1 month ago
Reply to  Stevie B

It is unfortunate that many people voted to leave the EU did not have the full facts and have since changed their mind. They were never given the full facts by the UK media. The velocity & quantity of trade is the prosperity of a modern economy and restricting your countries trade by leaving trade blocks of your neighbouring nations is never a good idea. The European economies have found it hard with external events such as Russian action in Ukraine, the pandemic, the debt crisis of 2008 etc. but they are growing. Meanwhile the UK has been stagnated by… Read more »

James
James
29 days ago

It’s not about the past and the present regarding the EU, it’s about the future. The way its heading is bad news. You only have to see that from what’s happened since we have left. Many countries now want to leave. You may be a small holder from Aberystwyth, but the are thousands of people in South and North Wales who have lost their jobs because the industry has been transferred to Europe. The farmers want the workers to support them, well the farmers need to support the workers too. We are together as one. Not when it suits.

Barry Pandy
Barry Pandy
1 month ago

I find it hard to believe that the future of the Welsh language rests on just one occupational group. Welsh speakers constitute around 20% of the population, farmers around 2%.

Gaynor
Gaynor
1 month ago
Reply to  Barry Pandy

It has implications in rural areas and Robin is on the mark re the economic value and the fact that local businesses and trades depend on the sector. But the sad reality is depopulation, anglomigration and anglification of pop culture has already decimated language use amongst younger rural folk.

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 month ago
Reply to  Gaynor

The same happened when the miner’s institutes introduced the Hollywood ‘talkies’ movies in the twenties to stop them going bankrupt…

Ernie The Smallholder
Ernie The Smallholder
1 month ago
Reply to  Barry Pandy

But, Welsh farmers provide us with our homegrown food.
It is about food security.

hdavies15
hdavies15
1 month ago

Ernie, Barry is probably one of those townies who doesn’t give a F**k where his food comes from. Either that or he’s so switched on to eating stuff hauled in from the far ends of the world despite the air miles and other negative factors like exploited cheap labour. But he’s doing his best to turn his own little corner “pure green”. There’s a word for that but it’s not printable !

Barry Pandy
Barry Pandy
1 month ago
Reply to  hdavies15

‘Townie’: the countryside dwellers equivalent derogatory term to ‘yokel’.

And all I said was I find it hard to believe that the future of the Welsh language depends on just one occupational group.

I think you’ll find that there are far more Welsh speakers than farmers, if there aren’t then the Welsh language is as good as finished (there are around 600,000 Welsh speakers, far more than the number of farmers).

And yes I’m a townie and proud of it.

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 month ago

I wonder if there have been any studies done on food self-sufficiency and production for the future at the Welsh Agricultural College, Aberystwyth ?

Rather than letting Solicitor Politicians do their worst…

We do have some ‘experts’ in Cymru, don’t we ?

hdavies15
hdavies15
1 month ago
Reply to  Mab Meirion

Most of them have been corrupted by those who turned pure science into comformity thus doing away with the need for serious research.

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