Welsh Government’s Sustainable Farming Scheme proposals

06 July 2022

Hill and upland farming Farm business and agri policy Environment Tenant farming
Image of Welsh farmland in North Wales

Welsh Government’s updated proposals for the Sustainable Farming Scheme (SFS) provides Welsh farmers with their first opportunity to consider the new scheme set to replace the BPS and Glastir from 2025.

NFU Cymru is pleased that in its publication today (Wednesday 6 July) Welsh Government has recognised the need for a universal set of actions that all farmers in Wales should undertake in return for support under the SFS. The union highlights, however, that the outcomes Welsh Government seeks to achieve through the scheme should be extended to include key objectives such as food security, rural vitality, on-farm productivity and the Welsh language.

Baseline payment

NFU Cymru President Aled Jones said: “I am encouraged by Welsh Government’s proposals outlined today that in return for undertaking a set of universal actions, farmers will be able to enter into the scheme and receive a baseline payment. We now need to carefully consider the practicality of these actions and how they could work to support productive, progressive and profitable farming systems.

“The outline proposed by Welsh Government appears to be a step towards the NFU Cymru vision of a sustainability and stability payment that should be available to all active farmers.

Support for the active farmer

“NFU Cymru has consistently highlighted the need to ensure that support must be targeted at active farmers; the people and businesses taking the risks associated with food production. I am pleased that the Minister has reiterated the importance of payments being linked to actions which an active farmer carries out. We now need to carefully consider the proposals to ensure that they work for all farmers, including tenants and commoners, and do not disadvantage those who farm land they do not own.

NFU Cymru's policy priorities

 “Whilst the outline proposals published today give farmers a first opportunity to see some of the actions and activities they may need to undertake to enter the SFS, without any information on the levels of funding attached to these actions and activities it remains impossible for farming families to consider how the scheme will support their farming business. We are clear that the scheme must deliver at least the same level of stability for farm businesses, the supply chain and our rural communities as the current arrangements do. There is a need to ensure that the scheme works for all farming sectors and all land types in Wales.

Moving forward

 “I am heartened that the proposals outlined today have moved forward significantly since the government began its engagement with industry through the 2018 Brexit and Our Land consultation. I welcome the fact that through extensive consultation with the industry, the Minister and her officials have taken on board a number of issues raised by NFU Cymru and we look forward to continuing to work with the Minister and her team to implement a policy conceived, born and bred in Wales.    

 “As a globally responsible nation we must ensure that proposals for increased tree cover and habitat are not achieved at the expense of food production. I remain concerned that the SFS continues to lack outcomes to ensure levels of domestic food production are maintained and enhanced to ensure the stable supply of safe, high quality, affordable food in Wales, ensuring we play our part in global food security. The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, the UK Government’s trade policy and the tragic conflict in the Ukraine and its effects across the world now also need to be considered alongside the outcomes that Welsh Government have previously set out for what they would like to achieve through the SFS.   

Net zero

“The Welsh Government definition of Sustainable Land Management frames sustainability through the lens of the environment alone and fails to recognise the broader economic, social and cultural outcomes provided by Welsh farming. We continue to contend that the Welsh Government definition of Sustainable Land Management should be amended to properly reflect the need to secure the supply of safe, nutritious, sufficient and affordable food; sustaining rural incomes and our language alongside maintaining and enhancing our natural resources and supporting the industry to reach our ambition of 2040 net zero agriculture. These are issues that we hope to see addressed within the Agriculture (Wales) Bill, introduced later this year.

“NFU Cymru will now take some time to study the document in detail, speaking with our membership, to consider how the framework matches up to our own vision of a policy based around three cornerstones of stability, productivity and the environment - an ambition for a productive, profitable and progressive Welsh farming sector that delivers for the whole of Wales.”

Our President Aled Jones' message

Neges gan y Llywydd Aled Jones

The Rural Affairs Minister, Lesley Griffiths MS said:

"The Sustainable Farming Scheme has been designed to support what our farmers do best which is sustainable farming and producing food in harmony with the environment. I want to see this Scheme drastically improve our biodiversity and strengthen the Welsh farming sector.

"We will rely on the commitment and expertise of the Welsh farming sector to deliver Net Zero and to halt and reverse the decline in biodiversity. The Scheme is designed to support farmers with this important role whilst at the same time helping them to continue producing high quality food to high production standards.

"The Scheme’s sustainability credentials are the basis for a prosperous future for agriculture in Wales and we want to see this help the industry to capture more of domestic and international markets.

"Today’s announcement presents these proposals in significantly more detail than has been shared previously. This includes outlining the structure of the Scheme, details on proposed actions, and the process through which farmers can apply.

"The climate and nature emergencies threaten the sustainability of agriculture and present the most serious risk to food security both globally and locally. We must respond to this if we are to ensure we have a sustainable and resilient agriculture sector for generations to come and one of my intentions for publishing the outline of the Scheme now is to help the industry plan for the future.

"The sustainable production of food and actions to deliver environmental outcomes are complementary, not competing, agendas.

"Farming is vital for Wales and plays a key role in supporting our economy and rural communities. I firmly believe the Sustainable Farming Scheme offers a real opportunity for positive change, and with the support it will provide we can help the sector prosper.

"We will be engaging with the sector during the next stage of co-design before consulting on the final proposals next year. I have always said I want to work with our farmers to ensure this Scheme works for them and our nation."

Read the full statement here.

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