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26 February 2024
AgriFood

Have Your Say on the Future of Farming in Wales

Photo Credit – Woodland-(c)-Paul-Harris-2020VISION

Wildlife Trusts Wales and WWF Cymru are urging the public to take part in shaping the future of farming in Wales through the Welsh Government’s final consultation on the Sustainable Farming Scheme. This initiative, which will start in 2025, aims to reward farmers for tackling the nature and climate crises while adopting sustainable food production methods.

Wildlife Trusts Wales has launched an online e-action in partnership with WWF Cymru to help Welsh people share their thoughts on how land should be farmed in future, and ensuring their views are heard by the Welsh Government as part of this consultation.

Welsh farmers are already feeling the impacts of climate change, but by adopting nature and climate-friendly farming measures, farmers can be part of the solution to climate change while making their businesses much more resilient in the face of extreme weather events. Without healthy soils, clean water, and pollinators, the resources needed to produce food would rapidly disappear and Wales risks losing the vital role of agriculture in sustaining its rural economy and communities.

If delivered well, the new scheme will support farmers to adapt to the changing climate, for example, by including incentives to plant trees to form shelter for livestock, switch to herb-rich grasses less prone to drought and store water in ponds on farms. All of these measures will also help nature’s recovery in Wales, which is much needed with the recent Welsh State of Nature report revealing alarming declines in wildlife, with 1 in 6 species at risk of extinction.

Iolo Williams, wildlife TV presenter and ambassador for Wildlife Trusts Wales, says:

“It’s crucial that people make their voices heard and show their support for farmers who farm in a nature-friendly way. We know many farmers are restoring nature on their farms, protecting rivers from farm pollution and producing food more sustainably by decreasing the use of pesticides and fertilisers. This is the type of farming that so many of us want to see across Wales. That is why I urge everyone to respond to this final consultation from the Welsh Government on the Sustainable Farming Scheme. It is vital to let the Welsh Government know that so many of us agree with the farming changes proposed within the Scheme, which will bring back nature and take action on climate change.”

To be truly effective, the proposed scheme must be properly funded and supported. The optional and collaborative tiers of the Sustainable Farming Scheme, which contain most of the nature-friendly actions, should be launched no later than April 2026, with Welsh Government allocating at least 50% of the budget to those tiers.

Without sufficient and long-term funding, farmers are quite rightly concerned about their future livelihoods. As 90% of Wales is farmland, managing this land to store carbon and to hold back flood waters in restored habitats is needed to mitigate the impacts of climate change. The scheme design will enable this, but the Welsh Government must invest in the future of sustainable farming by making payments attractive to farmers.

Tim Birch, Senior Policy and Advocacy Manager, Wildlife Trusts Wales, says:

“It is a critical time for farming in Wales. We want the public to make their voices heard in support of nature and climate-friendly farming so that we can restore Welsh nature, revitalise rural communities and build a better future for all of Wales. It won’t take long to respond to this important consultation, but it can make a real difference to the current food system, which isn’t working for farmers, for nature, for the climate, or even for consumers. The proposed new farm payment scheme is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to put farming in Wales on a sound sustainable footing and address the nature and climate crises.”

Shea Buckland-Jones, Head of Policy and Advocacy at WWF Cymru said:

“Welsh Government must invest in a nature-friendly future by making payments attractive to farmers. There is growing evidence that such farming methods increase land resilience and enable farmers to better mitigate and adapt to droughts and floods driven by climate change, as well as other environmental stresses. Weather impacts alone are currently costing the agricultural sector in Wales millions of pounds each year.

“Payments for nature-friendly farming must be backed up by investment in jobs, training and skills so that farmers are first in line to prosper from this transition. The status quo is a great risk to Welsh farming, with the number of farmers reducing significantly over the past decade. The impact of a changing climate will only make this worse as pressures and costs increase. Wales must embrace a nature-friendly farming future, or we risk losing the vital role agriculture plays in sustaining our rural economy, our communities and our future.”

Have your say on the future of farming in Wales here: https://www.wtwales.org/ by 7th March 2024.

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