Farmers are being urged to make their voice heard in a new consultation on sustainable farming in Wales.

The Welsh Government says the Sustainable Farming Scheme aims to secure food production systems, keep farmers farming the land, safeguard the environment, and address the urgent call of the climate emergency.

Plaid Cymru has warned however that fundamental concerns remain over proposals for farms to have 10 per cent tree cover.

The Farmers’ Union of Wales says the policy is the most important change to Welsh agricultural policy since the genesis of the Common Agricultural Policy in 1962.

The Welsh Government says the scheme will ‘support farmers to become more efficient and resilient, enabling them to respond to changing consumer demands and compete in a decarbonising global economy.’

The 17 Universal Actions, which support payment for actions which go beyond the legal requirement have been designed to help farmers make the best of their resources and support further action.

While the consultation does not include payment rates it proposes to provide a Universal Baseline Payment to farmers for carrying out the Universal Actions, which can be delivered by farms across Wales.

A Stability Payment is intended to support the move from BPS to the Scheme, by providing continuity of income. BPS is proposed to be phased out by 2029, with proposed changes to BPS rules and an annual reduction of the payment rate

Rural affairs minister Lesley Griffiths said: “We face many challenges including a difficult financial landscape, the climate and nature emergency and its profound impact on our vital food production.­

“The urgency of the climate and nature emergency cannot be overstated. We have seen first hand the impact of extreme weather patterns such as drought and floods on farming. These events will only increase in frequency and are the biggest threat to sustainable food production.­

“That is why we must ensure future support for the industry addresses this issue, so Wales’ farmers are resilient and able to continue to produce food sustainably.”­

Plaid Cymru has however expressed its continued concern at the 10 per cent tree cover proposals.

Llyr Gruffydd MS, Plaid Cymru’s shadow minister for rural affairs, warned that the government’s continued commitment to the ‘arbitrary’ 10 per cent figure for tree planting is a mistake that would prove unworkable and unviable for many farm businesses.

He said: “Plaid Cymru still has fundamental concerns about Labour’s stance on the arbitrary 10 per cent tree cover proposal.

“We’ve been consistent on this since the start.

“Whilst recognising that the government at last accepts that exemption is possible under certain circumstances, this doesn’t go far enough.

“As it stands the scheme remains unworkable and unviable for many farm businesses.

“Just this week I challenged the minister on how farmers will be recompensed for any devaluation of their land as a result of tree planting. She failed to answer.

“If this isn’t addressed it will drive farmers away from entering the scheme, undermining what it could achieve.

“It’s also disappointing that the minister still cannot provide any detail on the scheme’s budget and payment rates.

“Without this information it’s difficult to provide a meaningful response on how the different proposed actions will affect the industry.”