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Welsh farming subsidy overhaul threatens rural way of life – Tory ex-minister

29 Feb 2024 4 minute read
David Jones MP. Picture by Richard Townshend (CC BY 3.0).

The Welsh Government’s farming subsidy overhaul could destroy Wales’s rural way of life to serve “the dead hand of climate change fanaticism”, a former Conservative minister has claimed.

David Jones, a former Welsh secretary from the coalition era, warned the Labour-run Cardiff Bay administration not to adopt its proposed changes which would require more land to be set aside for environmental schemes.

Under the Sustainable Farming Scheme (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.


Concerns about its impact, alongside measures to control TB and regulations aimed at preventing nitrates from seeping into rivers, have led farmers to mobilise in protest.

About 3,000 people from across Wales demonstrated outside the Senedd on Wednesday to voice their opposition to the SFS.

A series of protests have already taken place across Wales but the event in Cardiff Bay was the largest, and saw speeches from farmers and Senedd politicians from the Welsh Conservatives and Plaid Cymru, as well as from former international rugby union referee Nigel Owens.

Clwyd West MP Mr Jones raised the agricultural subsidy scheme in a Commons debate on Welsh affairs, held ahead of St David’s Day on March 1.

The former minister said: “There is no doubt that climate change is a reality which does need to be addressed, and indeed is being addressed very effectively by the Westminster Government, however, when deciding whether the Welsh Government’s proposals are sensible or proportionate, one should take into account the fact that Welsh greenhouse gas emissions are already very low indeed.”

He claimed the Welsh Government had “deliberately chosen to penalise Welsh agriculture, to damage Welsh farming incomes, and to decimate the ranks of those who are employed in the rural economy” to reduce carbon emissions by an amount which “will in global terms be entirely insignificant”.


Intervening, shadow Welsh secretary Jo Stevens said: “Can I suggest, very respectfully, that rather than wind up the rhetoric, that he encourages his constituents to respond to the consultation? There is still a whole week to go.”

Mr Jones replied: “My constituents, I can assure her, have responded to the consultation, both on paper and physically, because several of them were in Cardiff yesterday objecting to this ludicrous proposal.”

He claimed the SFS could lead to farmers being “forced off their land”, adding: “Welsh culture will be undermined, the Welsh language will be weakened and it will be another nail in the coffin of the Welsh rural way of life. But that, it would appear, is entirely acceptable to the Welsh Government provided it results in a pitifully small reduction in emissions.”

Mr Jones said the Welsh Government “should recognise that they are the administration for a relatively small, lightly populated part of the United Kingdom and that they should be serving its specific needs and addressing its priorities in a proportionate manner”.


He added: “Wales needs better healthcare, better schools, better roads, a better economy, a better quality of life, and those needs are not well served by the dead hand of climate change fanaticism.”

Labour MP Tonia Antoniazzi (Gower) also urged farmers to take part in the Welsh Government consultation, telling the Commons: “It is a testing time as well in agricultural communities across Europe, not just in Wales. This is not a singular particular issue.

“We have to work together, cross-party and with our farming communities, and encourage all constituents who want to make their voice heard to respond to the consultation with Welsh Government before it closes on March 7.”

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Steve Duggan
Steve Duggan
4 months ago

My understanding of this policy, though far from perfect, is similar to the one the UK government has introduced for England but with better subsidies for Welsh farmers. The reason why it has kicked off here is because certain people from right wing organisations and the Tory party in London (look at Sunak joining the protest) have been stoking unrest for political advantage. Where are the protests in England? The Tories will do absolutely anything for an extra vote.

Last edited 4 months ago by Steve Duggan
Richard Davies
Richard Davies
4 months ago
Reply to  Steve Duggan

Yes, if Mr jones is so concerned about farmers the he should take a good look at what his party is imposing in lloegr. I have provided links for others to read up on in other articles.

You get nothing but lying, cheating, smoke and mirrors from the tories — nothing else — it’s no wonder they are known by the name tory, it derives from old Irish meaning of thief, robber!

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
4 months ago

Sounds like war between nature and man will continue until the very end…

I, me, mine…

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
4 months ago

No David Jones you are wrong. Any threat to the rural way of life in Wales is the disaster what is Brexit, especially the Tory race to the bottom with deregulation, red tape, tariffs and trade barriers.

4 months ago
Reply to  Y Cymro

Farmers like Nigel Owens haven’t read the schemes proposal. More generous than in England. They just want money with conditions attached. Also did they support the miners in the 1984-85 strike. No

4 months ago

Again in this article the Torys are being misleading, when stating that farmers would have to set aside 10% of land for trees then another 10 for wildlife. If for example a farm has 8% of its land with tree cover, they are only required to find 2%, to make it up to 10%, same for wildlife, but nobody is actually telling people this.

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