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Farmers welcome roundtable on changes to controversial Sustainable Farming Scheme

05 May 2024 3 minute read
Farmers protest outside the Senedd in Cardiff over planned changes to farming subsidies. Photo Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

Farmers leaders have welcomed the announcement of plans for a Ministerial Roundtable to consider changes to the Welsh Government’s controversial Sustainable Farming Scheme (SFS).

Thousands of Welsh farmers turned out to protest against the SFS, the government’s proposed scheme to replace the EU’s common agricultural policy, earlier this year.

The Cabinet Secretary for Climate Change and Rural Affairs, Huw Irranca Davies announced the launch of the roundtable in a written statement on Friday.

In it he said: “We have had a seven-year conversation to design a future farming support scheme that works for Wales.

Sustainable farming

“I am committed to keep listening to and, working with, farmers and all stakeholders to develop a scheme that will help deliver against our ambition for Wales to be a world leader in sustainable farming.

“Everyone I have met since taking on the role of Cabinet Secretary for Climate Change and Rural Affairs agrees that producing safe, high-quality food in Wales is vital to our future”.

Turning his attention to the issue of carbon sequestration within the scheme, the minister indicated looking at alternative proposals, which farmers have been pressing for, would be a key priority.

Current proposals would require farmers to bring their existing tree and woodland cover up to 10% – and earmark another 10% for habitat.

Mr Irranca Davies:” …one of the first tasks of the SFS Ministerial Roundtable will be to look at any further and alternative proposals to achieve additional carbon sequestration within the SFS.

“The Farming Unions and other stakeholders believe the Scheme should look beyond the existing Actions, such as additional tree planting, which this group will now consider.

“I expect the group of partners undertaking this work with us to focus on the evidence associated with actions to support additional carbon sequestration and the scale of opportunity in Wales. This exercise will be considered by the SFS Ministerial Roundtable and ultimately support the decisions I will be making on the Scheme’s introduction.

‘Radical rethink’

In response to the statement, FUW President Ian Rickman said: “One of our key asks following the consultation was to establish a small focused SFS design stakeholder group tasked with considering details of different elements of the scheme, along with payment rates and overall budgetary requirements.”

“However, I reiterate this message again; the scheme needs far more than touching up around the edges. It needs a radical rethink, and this group must now deliver meaningful change within the timeframe presented to us.”

Turning to the move on alternative proposals to achieve additional carbon sequestration within the SFS, Mr Rickman added: “This development is also welcomed given the urgent need to evaluate the science around net zero and carbon sequestration to help develop the SFS. This element needs to take into account all actions farmers can undertake to make progress towards net zero in a sustainable way.

“The engagement we’ve had as a Union with the Cabinet Secretary and his officials to date has been positive and this statement reflects those discussions. The FUW is ready to burn the midnight oil to ensure we get to the right place before the end of the year, in order that this scheme is workable both economically and environmentally.”

The minister says he will update MS on the latest developments regarding the SFS on 14 May, with the first ministerial roundtable talks expected before the end of the month.

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Stevie B
Stevie B
21 days ago

The farmers shouldn’t voted for Brexit!

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