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The importance of getting the Sustainable Farming Scheme right cannot be underestimated, says FUW President

14 Feb 2024 4 minute read
FUW President, Ian Rickman

Farmers’ Union of Wales President, Ian Rickman, has written to all members urging individuals and businesses to formally respond to the Welsh Government’s Sustainable Farming Scheme (SFS) consultation and to make their voices heard.

In his address to members, he said: “We need only look at the statistics from the Farm Business Survey to understand the significance of agricultural and rural development funding to our food supply chains and the wider rural economy.


“This is the third and final consultation on the SFS proposals and the importance of getting it right cannot be underestimated.

“We have already spoken directly with over 1500 farmers at our local county meetings across Wales in recent weeks, and our team of farming experts have been pushing for changes and amendments to the Welsh Government’s plans over a number of years. This is a crucial juncture for Welsh agriculture and its future

Modelling on the potential economic effects of the Sustainable Farming Scheme published alongside the consultation suggests:

  • a reduction in farm business income of up to £199 million
  • a reduction in farm output of £125 million
  • 122,000 fewer livestock units
  • an 11% decline in on-farm labour requirements.

“The reality is that if the scheme remains in its current form, and if the modelling report is correct, farmers uptake will be minimal and everyone will lose out – Welsh farmers, the environment, the public and ultimately the Welsh Government.

“There is a real worry that even under a scenario where scheme payments come nowhere near to compensating for the loss of the Basic Payment Scheme, there will be some farm businesses that will have no choice other than to participate in the SFS. This will, no doubt, place further pressure on farmers’ workload and mental health.

“The Sustainable Farming Scheme must be accessible by all, and provide long-term stability for farming businesses and the wider rural economy that relies upon agriculture. The SFS needs to provide a meaningful income stream which properly rewards farmers and underpins the importance of a high quality food supply chain, produced here in Wales” said Mr Rickman.

Image: FUW

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 £400 million to comply with.

“The recent meetings at Welshpool and Carmarthen livestock markets made a clear statement about the frustration felt by many farmers. It illustrated the groundswell of concern with regards to the current situation and future direction of agricultural policy here in Wales.


“As a farmer myself I fully understand and comprehend the frustrations of many at these meetings. We need to ensure that we work together and that the voice of Welsh farmers is being heard by decision makers in Wales and Westminster. Both farming unions will be meeting with Minister for Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths, to discuss the way forward.

“I cannot, however, overstate how important it is for every individual and business that will be affected by these proposals to formally respond to this consultation by the 7th of March. It is absolutely crucial that we all do so.

“I would also ask you to contact your local elected representatives at every opportunity, whether they are county councillors, local and/or regional Members of the Senedd or Members of Parliament at Westminster.

“We need to ensure that they also hear your voice and your concerns in order to ensure that we can continue to bring pressure on the Welsh Government to revise the scheme in a way that promotes a sustainable agriculture industry in Wales and safeguards it for the future.”

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “The Sustainable Farming Scheme aims to secure food production systems, keep farmers farming the land, safeguard the environment, and address the urgent call of the climate and nature emergency.

“We have run an extensive co-design exercise in developing the SFS and we thank everyone who has been involved. The final consultation on the Scheme is open and we encourage everyone to get involved by 7 March.”

Respond to the Sustainable Farming Scheme consultation here:



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Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
5 months ago

Livestock unit=does that equate to an animal ? Asking for my sheepdog…

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
5 months ago

8 years since you had to do a bit of head scratching, better luck this time…

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