The CARAS Cymru annual conference delivered a rousing plea to the Welsh Government to ensure that the Sustainable Farming Scheme safeguards the next generation.

Seeing the Wood from the Trees delivered an analysis of the Welsh Government’s proposals, including the 10 per cent planting of trees requirement.

The conference, held at the Royal Welsh Showground, took up Welsh Government director of rural affairs Gian Marco Currado’s request for feedback on the scheme. The vice chair of CARAS Cymru, Mansel Raymond, summed up the mood by stressing that the Sustainable Farming Scheme is critical for the future of Welsh agriculture. He said young people needed to be encouraged to grow food that is in world demand.

It was important not to curtail what Welsh farmers have done over the years. Income foregone was not an option when the scheme is demanding that farmers do more.

Mr Raymond said: “There seems all of a sudden to be a massive disconnect between the farming fraternity and our masters. That is something we have to change. This industry cannot afford to fall.

“If we lose production, if we lose that mass, the whole fabric of the industry will be lost and we’ll have to start from the bottom. The future of food production in Wales is important.”

The conference was chaired by past RWAS president and former NFU Cymru president, John R Davies, who said: “The key things we’ve got to do as a nation is to protect ourselves and also to feed ourselves.

“As farmers there is food production running through each and every one of us. It’s an absolutely crucial time for the future of Welsh agriculture and I’m incredibly pleased to have the panel we have here today.

“We’ve always been incredibly keen on having policy made in Wales, for Wales by Wales.”

Dr Nick Fenwick, formerly FUW head of policy, suggested there was an array of solutions to climate change, rather than a blanket 10 per cent tree cover target. He said around 30 per cent of Welsh emissions come from energy production, about double the footprint for agriculture. It is estimated that over the next 25 years the amount of energy needed in Wales would increase five fold.

He stressed that farming is part of the solution, as the biggest contributor to green energy production and in doing that also reduce agriculture’s carbon footprint. He illustrated his point by explaining that a 330m sq area of solar panel would reduce carbon emissions by the same amount as a hectare of trees, as would a 10kw water turbine or a 15kw wind turbine.

Dr Fenwick urged: “Basically per unit area, solar panels are between 30 and 50 times more effective per unit area than tree planting in terms of reducing carbon emissions.”