NFU Cymru has met with the Minister for Rural Affairs to voice concerns over tree planting plans for Wales.
Union members met with Lesley Griffiths MS following a statement earlier this month on the second phase of the Sustainable Farming Scheme for Wales, which the NFU reacted to with ‘extreme concern’ at the Welsh Government’s ‘doubling down’ on a 10 per cent tree cover target for Wales.
Speaking after the meeting, NFU Cymru president Aled Jones said “Our members are deeply concerned to hear that Welsh Government appears more committed than ever to its 10 per cent tree cover target on areas it deems suitable for tree planting under the universal tier of the proposed scheme.
“I’ve spoken to a good many members over the last few days and they are very concerned at what they heard in the statement.
“Our fear is that this will mean loading of tree planting pressure on productive farmland at the very time when food security and agricultural productivity have never been more important.
“I have conveyed the industry’s deep concerns to the Minister that the 10 per cent target, coupled with uncertainty about payment rates, has not landed well with NFU Cymru’s membership, raising genuine questions about how many farmers may eventually enter the scheme. It is clear to me that Welsh Government must look again at its tree cover target.”
The meeting also saw NFU Cymru discuss how Welsh farmers are currently facing a funding ‘cliff edge’ with the Glastir agri-environment scheme due to end this year and no successor scheme in place.
Mr Jones added: “In January NFU Cymru wrote to the Minister asking Welsh Government to consider transitional measures to bridge the gap between the ending of Glastir funding in December 2023 and the Sustainable Farming Scheme which is due to start in 2025.
"Glastir has delivered many positive benefits, many of our members have committed to agri-environment delivery for upwards of a quarter of a century and are seeking reassurance that they will continue to be supported and rewarded for the delivery of these environmental outcomes until they have the opportunity to access the SFS.
“I’m grateful to the Minister and her officials for meeting with us. A lot of time and effort has gone into the Agriculture Bill process over the last few months, and I took the opportunity to commend them on all the hard work that has gone in to developing this all-important piece of legislation which has now completed its Senedd stages, and is set to become the framework which will allow for the design and operation of the SFS.”