Tree planting ambitions must not hinder vital food production

20 July 2022

Environment
Woodland

NFU Cymru members have stated future tree planting proposals must be realistic and safeguard food production so farmers can continue feeding the nation.

Welsh farmers made their views known during NFU Cymru’s Growing Together seminar, held during the second day of the Royal Welsh Show in Llanelwedd, Builth Wells.

The event explored the themes incorporated in NFU Cymru’s successful Growing Together strategy and campaign, launched last year.  The Growing Together initiative highlights the positive role Welsh farming already play in harnessing a critical carbon resource in soils, grassland, hedgerows, woodlands and semi-natural habitats, with the potential to do more.

Ambitious targets

The Growing Together strategy comes at a time when Welsh Government has set ambitious tree planting targets of 43,000 hectares by 2030, with 180,000 hectares by 2050.

NFU Cymru is supportive of measures that facilitate and reward farmers for additional woodland planting, but the union continues to emphasise that Welsh land is a finite resource and Welsh Government’s climate change targets must be progressed in ways that are sustainable and fair.  Tree planting targets should not be achieved through a binary choice of farming or forestry; safeguards are needed to protect food production and to avoid damaging impacts to Welsh rural communities, culture and language arising from external investors buying up farms for complete afforestation as companies bid to offset their carbon impact.

10% tree cover

In response to the publication of Welsh Government’s outline proposals for the Sustainable Farming Scheme earlier this month, which included a requirement to have at least 10% tree cover on their farm as a universal action, farmers present at the Growing Together seminar highlighted the need for this to incorporate new and existing hedgerows.

The need for flexibility around the 10% target was also highlighted. Many farms will already reach or exceed this 10% threshold, however for others - such as farmers who do not own the land that they farm, common land right holders or those whose ability to plant trees is hindered due to their location - committing to the delivery of 10% tree cover may not be possible.

Realistic

Speaking after the NFU Cymru Growing Together seminar at the Royal Welsh Show, NFU Cymru President Aled Jones said: “It is clear in the context of the proposed Sustainable Farming Scheme there is more work to do to understand whether the 10% tree cover target is realistic for all farm businesses in Wales. As farmers, we recognise the role we have to play in making a positive contribution to Welsh Government’s net zero agenda. However, these targets must be progressed in ways that are realistic for farming, as well as sustainable and fair, so that farmers can continue to produce high quality food for the nation and also continue to deliver the broad range of economic, environmental, social and cultural benefits for society.” 

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