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Controversial farm subsidy scheme consultation closes

08 Mar 2024 4 minute read
Farmers protest outside the Senedd in Cardiff over planned changes to farming subsidies. Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

Emily Price

The Welsh Government has thanked farmers for taking part in a consultation for a controversial overhaul of farm subsidies which led to protests across Wales.

The Sustainable Farming Scheme (SFS) will replace grants once received when Wales was part of the European Union. It will use public money to help farmers produce food sustainably, tackle the climate and nature emergencies and restore ecosystems.

But it will require farmers to bring their existing tree and woodland cover up to 10%, and earmark another 10% for habitat – a requirement which farmers and unions say is “unworkable”.

Last month thousands of farmers arrived in Cardiff Bay to protest the plans and this week 5,500 wellies were laid out on the steps of the Senedd to symbolise the potential job losses faced by the sector if the scheme moves ahead.

‘Important’

The Welsh Government says the SFS is necessary in the fight against climate change but also says changed will be made to the scheme before its roll out next year.

Shadow minister for rural affairs Sam Kurtz described the consultation as the “most important for rural Wales in a generation.”

Both Plaid Cymru and the Welsh Conservatives have raised concerns about the scheme in its current form.

Analysis and a summary of the responses will be published but the Welsh Government later in the spring.

On Friday (March 8) the Minister for Rural Affairs Lesley Griffiths thanked everyone who took part in the SFS consultation saying the responses will be “carefully considered”.

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She said: “I’d like to thank everyone who has taken part in this consultation, or attended one of our roadshows. Every response to the consultation will be carefully considered.

“There are many examples of the very highest standards of farming and food production in Wales, and we believe that we must support more farmers to achieve those high standards to ensure a sustainable future for our rural communities and our nation as a whole. We will use the wealth of valuable insight gained through the consultation to consider how best this can be achieved.

“Every consultation response received, and the issues raised and discussed at the 10 Welsh Government Roadshow events during the consultation period, will be analysed and properly considered.

“I have been clear I expect changes to be made to the proposals as a result of the consultation so that we can most effectively support a transition to more sustainable farming in Wales, as our present circumstances demand.

“No decision will be taken on any of the proposals, including how we achieve the requirement for habitat and trees, until a full analysis of the responses has been carried out.

“Our aim is to secure a successful future for Wales and for our farmers. We want them to continue producing food sustainably into the future, in ways that we know many farmers already practice right across Wales.

“Sustainable food production delivers additional benefits such as improvements to business efficiency, water quality and biodiversity, which in turn ensure that food production can continue for generations to come.

“These are benefits to wider society and we continue to believe that public funding for farming is well justified on the basis of the kind of social value farmers provide.

“I’d like to assure everyone who has taken part in the consultation – we are listening and we will take all views into account. We have to get this right, the future of food production in Wales depends on it.”

Responding to the closure of the consultation, Samuel Kurtz MS, Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for Rural Affairs, said: “This consultation has been painful for our rural communities.

“Farmers across Wales, fearing for their future, have made it clear that the SFS requires major changes, or else thousands of jobs will be lost.

“It’s now time for the Welsh Government to show that they have listened to farmers.”


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