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

The final consultation on the Sustainable Farming Scheme, which will be the main support for farmers in Wales from 2025, aiming to make Welsh farmers world leaders in sustainable farming, is published today [Thursday, 14 December].

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 and nature emergency.

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 proposals have been shaped by feedback received from farmers and the wider industry over three consultations and two phases of co-design. No final decision on the scheme will be taken until after this consultation.

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.

Universal Actions include:

• Work with your vet to establish an ongoing proactive approach to animal health and biosecurity.

• Complete an annual self-assessment to optimise business and environmental performance.

• Develop hedgerows to become thick dense stockproof barriers which also provide valuable shelter, and an important habitat for wildlife.

• Maintain existing woodlands to optimise benefits for livestock, wildlife, and business diversification.

• Active management of modified peatlands to protect soil carbon stocks.

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

Minister for Rural Affairs Lesley Griffiths said: “I’m pleased to publish the final consultation on the Sustainable Farming Scheme today. I’d like to thank all those who have been involved in the process so far.

“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.

“To be resilient and sustainable means to be able to adapt to new evidence, new priorities and new challenges. The Scheme has been designed to provide a clear long term structure with which we can all become familiar, but one which continues to evolve in a changing world.

“In getting to this point with the SFS, we have never engaged so thoroughly with our farmers and stakeholders. We still want to hear their views and I would encourage everyone to take part in this important consultation. No final decision will be taken on the SFS until after this consultation has taken place and the responses considered.”

Whilst the Sustainable Farming Scheme as a whole is not covered, the proposed continuation of stability payments which will be available beyond this Senedd term and the transition period are part of the Cooperation Agreement with Plaid Cymru.

Speaking in response to the announcement, FUW President Ian Rickman said: “We have repeatedly consulted with our members on several versions of this scheme since 2018 and are now at the most critical stage of its development.

“While we have been successful in lobbying for certain crucial changes to the scheme since its inception, including the provision of a baseline payment, a number of significant barriers and questions around certain details remain.”

In response to the initial Brexit and Our Land Consultation, the FUW maintained that any future payment scheme based on environmental and public goods outcomes must also protect family farms, support rural communities and Welsh Jobs and ensure that agriculture is both sustainable and rewarding. To fail to do so would most likely lead to serious damage to Wales’ family farms and the role they play in Wales’ economy, society, culture and landscape.

“These policy priorities continue to underpin our key asks in relation to the Sustainable Farming Scheme - this scheme must be practical for all farmers in Wales and deliver on our economic, environmental and social sustainability.

“We will be thoroughly dissecting the consultation document and will consult with members in detail on the proposals. This consultation outlines the most important change to Welsh agricultural policy since the genesis of the Common Agricultural Policy in 1962 and I therefore urge every member to engage and contribute to the Union’s response,” said the FUW President.