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Co-operation agreement between Welsh Government and Plaid Cymru at risk over farming reforms, MPs hear

04 Mar 2024 4 minute read
Plaid Cymru MP Ben Lake: UK Parliament

Plaid Cymru should threaten to end its co-operation agreement with the Welsh Government to secure changes to farming subsidy reforms, MPs have heard.

Ben Lake, Plaid Cymru MP for Ceredigion, said the Sustainable Farming Scheme (SFS) should be paused and a “proper policy” developed, adding he would back his colleagues at the Senedd using “every lever possible”.

He told the Commons: “If that means the demise of a co-operation agreement, I certainly shall not be mourning its passing.”

Labour in Wales holds 30 seats in the Senedd, one seat short of an overall majority, while Plaid is the third largest party with 13.


The two parties announced a co-operation agreement in 2021 across a number of policy areas.

Under the SFS, Welsh farmers would have to set aside 10% of their land for trees, and a further 10% for wildlife habitat.

Farming leaders say the scheme could result in 5,500 job losses, with around 3,000 people from across Wales demonstrating outside the Senedd last week.

The Welsh Government has insisted it is listening to farmers’ concerns and changes can be made.

Speaking during a Commons debate on farming, Conservative MP Robin Millar said farmers in his Aberconwy constituency believe the loss of income caused by SFS will be the “difference between them having a future and not”.

He added to Mr Lake: “So what message does he have then for his Plaid Cymru colleagues in the Senedd who are propping up that Welsh Labour Government through a co-operation agreement?

“Does he agree with me that tomorrow afternoon’s budget vote might be a good opportunity for them to reconsider that co-operation?”

Life and death

Mr Lake replied: “I think he is right to state the fears of his farmers that very much align with those expressed to me by farmers in Ceredigion that the potential changes of this policy is, quite frankly, a matter of life and death for their businesses.

“He tempts me to comment on some of the potential plans of my colleagues in the Senedd, I’ll resist them, but I will say that I think it’s important, given the gravity of the situation facing the Welsh agricultural industry, that the SFS is changed.

“I would suggest that it should be paused to begin with so we have time to devise a proper policy that is fit for the 21st century, and if my colleagues decide that they need to use every lever possible then all power to their elbow.

“If that means the demise of a co-operation agreement, I certainly shall not be mourning its passing.”

Wales Office minister Fay Jones earlier said farmers in the country have “become used to an uneasy relationship” with Welsh Labour over the last 25 years, adding “frustration is turning to anger” following the publication of the sustainable farming scheme.

She said: “This scheme is nothing short of unworkable.

“Instead of freeing farmers from the burden of red tape, farmers are forced into an atrocious set of data gathering and reporting on a yearly basis.”


A Welsh Government spokesperson said last week: “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 work 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.

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

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Richard Davies
Richard Davies
4 months ago

When any tory makes a criticism about the Sustainable Farming Scheme it makes me angry because the policy being introduced over the border in lloegr by those tories is exactly the same but there is no discussion of making any reform of it!

Barry Pandy
Barry Pandy
4 months ago
Reply to  Richard Davies

That’s because: A). In England it is being implemented by tories. B). Most farmers are tories. C). The NFU (both the English and Welsh branches) are tory supporters. D). It is an election year and the tories (and the tory supporting farmers) are using any and every stick to beat a Labour government with in a vain hope of turning the opinion polls around. Wait for the election results in England – if Labour win power in Westminster the farmers will immediatley start protesting against the reforms to farming subsidies in Lloegr EVEN IF the new Westminster Labour government implements… Read more »

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
4 months ago

With the ending of free school meals Plaid should return to its own corner and busy itself with the concerns of its supporters…

Will Jones
Will Jones
4 months ago

Plaid agreed to the SFS scheme and now want to back out because it is unpopular

4 months ago
Reply to  Will Jones

In might be that you’re confusing A Sustainable Farming Scheme with THE SFS proposal that’s up for consultation, both of them with the Agriculture (Wales) Act 2023.and maybe all of the above with the 2021 Co-operation Agreement between Labour and Plaid Cymru. As far as I can tell – The vote in support of the Agriculture Act, which forms the legal basis for implementing A SFS was 56 for and zero against. Presumably therefore all parties recognise the need for A SFS. The Co-operation agreement between Labour and PC doesn’t go into any detail on what A SFS would look… Read more »

4 months ago

No one is talking about why a sustainable farming scheme is needed – its all about the farmers, nothing about the collapse of nature! Modern farming methods are too intensive and the super markets have far too much power over commodity prices. Reduce the number of animals on the land and improve unit prices for farmers…. and concentrate on connectivity of habitats and the cleaning of our rivers and streams not arbitary %’s of set aside land.

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
4 months ago

Plaid should be a stand alone party not a flying buttress for Welsh Labour and its corrupt and crumbling edifice…

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