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15 December 2023
AgriFood

Welsh Farming Revolution: Public Input Key to Sustainable Farm Scheme

Haregill Lodge Farm, North Yorkshire

Once-in-a-lifetime Sustainable Farm Scheme offers hope for future, say Wildlife Trusts Wales 

The Welsh Government has launched a consultation on new farm payments today, offering the public a rare opportunity to have a say in the future of Welsh food, nature and the countryside.

A Sustainable Farming Scheme will replace the existing farm payments in 2025, and this will mark a pivotal shift in farming subsidies post-Brexit. The scheme aims to bolster sustainable food production in Wales by addressing environmental problems such as the climate and nature crises. Farmers will be paid to store carbon by revitalising natural habitats and this, in turn, will help to reduce flooding, water pollution and reverse wildlife declines.

Intensive farming has been a significant contributor to nature loss and river pollution, making Wales one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world. The recent Welsh State of Nature report revealed alarming declines in wildlife, with 1 in 6 species at risk of extinction. The Wildlife Trusts Wales are clear that these impacts are not the fault of farmers but rather the result of an out-of-date food production model that is not sustainable and fails to reward farmers fairly. It is widely acknowledged that the nature crisis needs an urgent and transformative response.

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

“Farming and nature are mutually beneficial – and farmers should be recognised and rewarded for bringing nature back, keeping rivers clear of pollution and for locking carbon in soil. So it’s vital there’s enough funding for the huge task ahead. Everybody in Wales stands to benefit if we get this new scheme right – it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to ensure farm businesses have a sustainable, viable future.”

Almost 90% of land in Wales is farmland. Farmers joining the scheme will commit to specific actions such as providing natural habitats, protecting rivers, managing designated nature areas, increasing wetlands, planting trees, and promoting soil health.

Rachel Sharp, Director of Wildlife Trusts Wales, says: 

“It’s important that taxpayers’ money is spent on things that benefit the people of Wales. The Sustainable Farm Scheme will assist in reducing the number of homes flooded, ensure cleaner air, and enable farmers to store carbon in natural habitats that reduce the effects of climate change. These are recognised as ‘public goods’. The industrial farming that you see across much of Wales is the result of a broken food system that is failing farmers. A new system is desperately needed, and the new proposals will support farmers towards climate and nature-friendly farming.”

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