Responding to the Sustainable Farming Scheme

As we submit our consultation response through the Welsh Government portal, I've been reflecting on the pivotal role of agriculture plays in shaping the landscapes of Wales.

Let me start by expressing our wholehearted support for the vision articulated in "Keeping Farmers Farming." This scheme not only resonates with the objectives outlined in our Corporate Plan, but also presents a remarkable opportunity to deepen the integration of environmental stewardship within Welsh agriculture.

Throughout the consultation period, we've actively engaged with farmers, immersing ourselves in conversations to understand their views, and glean their insights on the Scheme.

And we agree on a lot of elements. We are also convinced that farmers should be empowered to deliver environmental benefits – not at the expense of food – but as an integral part of the products delivered by farming.  

We know that there is concern about the tree planting and habitat elements of the Scheme. But the average farm already has 6 to 7% tree cover, and this can count towards the target to reach the 10% tree cover rules. In some cases that broadleaved woodland cover will count towards land managed as habitat too.

So what are the headlines from our response?

Mitigating for climate change

To keep producing food sustainably, a viable farm business will need support to prepare and cope with climate shifts. And so, in our response, we’ve noted that farmers need to be ready to adapt to climate change on their farms. By creating plans, better business choices can be made, all whilst delivering for the environment. Simple risk models can give famers advice on how to prevent problems, handle emergencies, and adapt to changes in the weather for instance.

Tree Planting – necessary, but greater flexibility needed.

We support an increase to on-farm tree cover as a cost-effective and nature-based solution to bring positive environmental enhancement for water quality, pollution prevention and biodiversity.

Most farms will have some capacity to increase tree cover and hedges and this can be spatially targeted so that the scale and distribution of trees is appropriate. New woodland could deliver farm income, new farm products and benefits for animal welfare and productivity as well as supporting farm carbon budgets.  

Designated Sites – funding actions not plans

Designated sites are key to nature’s recovery, and the vast majority of our SSSIs are managed by farmers, We believe that some changes must be made to the Scheme proposals to make sure that those with SSSI land will not be at a financial disadvantage.

Around 40% of commons in Wales are also designated SSSI and we welcome the proposals for the development of Commons’ Management Plans. But key to a nature rich future is that these Plans then lead to action.

Diversifying the funding

A key part of our response is around funding for the Scheme, and that it does not all fall on the public purse. We’re proposing that Welsh Government accelerates investment from the private sector. A more creative funding plan, working with consumers and supply chains, would help deliver the Scheme’s true potential and value.

Using green finance could bring the investment needed for sustainable farming practices and regenerative food systems and provide bring long-term stability for the farmer.

We have now submitted our consultation response and look forward to continuing our work with Welsh Government during the coming months in the development and delivery of an ambitious and successful Sustainable Farming Scheme. 

We are committed to playing our part every step of the way, nurturing a landscape where farming and nature thrive together.

Related document downloads

SFS Exec Summary PDF [217.3 KB]

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