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Thousands of farmers protest outside Senedd

28 Feb 2024 5 minute read
Protesting farmers gathered outside the Senedd Image: Andrew Matthews

Three thousand people descended on the Senedd in protest at a proposed overhaul of farming subsidies they say threaten their industry.

Protesters, who had travelled from across the country to attend the event, cheered, waved Welsh flags and held placards in Welsh and English reading: “No Farmers, No Food”.

They are objecting to proposals by the Welsh Labour Government to require more land to be set aside for environmental schemes.

A series of protests have already taken place across Wales but the event in Cardiff Bay on Wednesday was the largest by far, attended by thousands of farmers.

South Wales Police had previously asked those attending not to bring tractors, meaning a line of the vehicles were parked along a road leading to Cardiff Bay.

The event saw speeches from farmers, Senedd politicians from the Welsh Conservatives and Plaid Cymru, as well as from former international rugby union referee Nigel Owens.

Nigel Owens – Image: Andrew Matthews

Support

He told the cheering crowds: “In 2015, I was very privileged to referee the World Cup final in Twickenham – the proudest moment of my career.

“But today I’m even prouder to come and speak in front of good, decent people. An honour to be here to speak and to support you today as a fellow farmer.”

Mr Owens said he had dreamed of becoming a farmer since he was eight years old, and now had a small freeholding.

“I do it became I care, because I’m passionate about the industry that we are in,” Mr Owens said. “But without farmers there is no food.

“There can be no Six Nations game in Cardiff next Saturday against France if there is no referee. There can be no food on the table if there are no farmers.”

Protesters placed wellington boots in adult and child sizes in front of the speakers.

Wellies at farm protest – Image: Andrew Matthews

Wellies

Mr Owens said: “In decades time to come, we want to see people in those wellingtons, not empty ones.”

The protesters are objecting to the sustainable farming scheme (SFS), which is currently under consultation and would require 10% of a farmer’s land to be covered in trees in exchange for future funding.

Farming leaders say the scheme could result in 5,500 job losses.

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

Ioan Humphreys, a fifth-generation farmer from mid Wales, said: “I’ve got a two-year-old son sitting at home who loves every minute of being on the farm, and I am fighting for his future on that farm.

“I’m also here to make sure as farmers stick together and unite through this time of hardship regardless of who we are, where we come from, what we found or what we believe in, now is the time to stick together.”

He added: “Farmers are the heart and soul of our local communities and I for one am fed up of being treated like the villain.

“Where do the people thinking up these schemes think their food is going to come from when there’s farms ravaged by TB and we’re busy pruning trees.”

Those demonstrating have seen the support of the Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, who told a gathering outside the Welsh Conservative conference last week that “we’ve got your back”.

Rhun ap Iorwerth gives a speech to protesting farmers in Cardiff Bay.

Message

Andrew RT Davies, leader of the Welsh Conservatives in the Senedd, thanked the farmers for demonstrating, telling them they were “sending a message to the Welsh Parliament”.

He said: “What we must continue to do and be allowed to do is produce that food, protect our environment.”

Rhun ap Iorwerth, leader of Plaid Cymru, said: “There is no Wales without rural Wales.

“We cannot have a vibrant rural Wales without its governments here in Cardiff and in Westminster being willing champions for it and backing it at every turn.

“From the foods on our tables, to our living communities and to our rural environments, and the health of biodiversity in rural Wales, it is agriculture that binds all of this together.”

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 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.

“The First Minister and Rural Affairs Minister provided an update yesterday on a number of key areas to support the sector.”

Peaceful protest

Superintendent Esyr Jones said: “South Wales Police respects the right to peaceful protest, and following discussion with the organisers we were able to ensure that the protest took place safely, lawfully with minimum disruption to the wider public.

“Bringing tractors and other agricultural vehicles into a busy city environment poses a risk to the safety of other road users and potentially restricts the movement of emergency services.

“However, working with the protest organisers and Cardiff Council a suitable holding area was identified meaning little disruption or delay on routes around Cardiff Bay and across the wider South Wales road network.”


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Jeff
Jeff
1 month ago

Good for them. Nice day for it.

Now, less people signed their petition and more turned out than the anti 20 when what, 50? turned up. Makes you wonder about petitions and intent.

Hywel
Hywel
1 month ago

If the Senedd insists on allowing foreign firms to cover our country in wind farms with no financial benefit accruing to Cymru, why not at least stipulate the land has to have total tree cover?
That would help mitigate the farmers’ onerous requirements under this law.

Ap Kenneth
1 month ago
Reply to  Hywel

Most of the windfarms are on leased land, the real owners often being absentee landlords (and witheld from the Land Registry). See “who owns Wales”

Gareth
Gareth
1 month ago

This must be the first time the Tory party here, have not called on our Gov to do as the English are doing. Maybe because both are pursuing the same policy, ie, end untargeted funding, reduce emissions and preserve wildlife. The two are basically the same when you look at them, but it is only here the Torys are against, they are proposing it in England.

Richard Davies
Richard Davies
1 month ago

One major problem is the buying power of the big supermarkets! If so many farmers can get together under these circumstances then why can’t they get themselves together to create something at scale to rival them? (like milk vending machines but bigger)

Last edited 1 month ago by Richard Davies
Ap Kenneth
1 month ago

This “no food without farmers” flies in the face of what is coming down the road with technology. Precision fermentation has the potential to totally destroy the dairy and meat industries.
The supermarkets and food processors take all the profit from food production and retailing of food and give only the minimum to farmers, they look to control food production through this new technology.
If farmers want to stay on the land it means they need to produce other goods – some public goods to get subsidies denied to most other groups of people.

Rhufawn Jones
Rhufawn Jones
1 month ago

Hen lywodraeth ragrithiol, yn mynnu bod ffermwyr yn plannu coed ar dir pori, gan orfod lleihau eu stoc o ganlyniad, a hwythau yn rhoi rheidrwydd ar Gyngorau Sir i reibio daear las a diwreiddio coed er mwyn codi miloedd a miloedd o dai di-angen, oherwydd ‘amcanestyniada poblogaeth’. Am ba hyd yn dioddefo gwerin Cymru y fath anrhaith ar ein gwlad.

Cwm Rhondda
Cwm Rhondda
1 month ago

Any farmer who voted for Brexit had no right to be at the protest.

Welshman28
Welshman28
1 month ago

It’s obvious that WLG want to cream the top off this budget for other projects exactly the same way as the Health budget in Wales. How will these ideas do anything to curb climate change. Major scientists have said it won’t do anything .

Barry Pandy
Barry Pandy
1 month ago

The Welsh government has engaged Welsh farmers in a ‘seven year conversation’ yet it is only now that the farmers have decided to protest. Nothing to do with this being an election year is it?

Gareth
Gareth
1 month ago
Reply to  Barry Pandy

Barry, you can also add that the whole thing was set up, and is being run from England, by a GB News reporter, and they dont seem to be protesting the same thing in England, because they and the Torys are proposing it.

Barry Pandy
Barry Pandy
1 month ago
Reply to  Gareth

Too right. No doubt some farmers have genuine concerns, although many farmers support the proposals – something which is barely being reported on.

If you ask me Welsh farmers are being cynically exploited by right-wing interests in attempt to shore up the tory vote in the countryside.

Peter Cuthbert
Peter Cuthbert
1 month ago
Reply to  Barry Pandy

There is a nice summary of the whole issue and how it is being manipulated by Climate Change deniers and the far right in an article by George Monbiot in the Guardian [https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2024/feb/28/wales-farming-environment-sunak-protest]. No paywall. I know that George is unpopular with a lot of folk, but he does his research properly and reports it well. It is also worth reading the WWF report on the Wales Sustainable Farming Scheme (SFS). Lot of interesting stuff there plus some excellent ase studies. As mentioned above by Ap Kenneth, Welsh farming needs to grab new technologies like precision fermentation and come together… Read more »

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