The Farmers’ Union of Wales has provided oral evidence as part of the Senedd Climate Change, Environment and Infrastructure Committee’s inquiry into the Sustainable Farming Scheme and says it presented a strong case for the need to rethink.

Speaking during the session, FUW Deputy Head of Policy Gareth Parry said: “We have no doubt that by ensuring the mandatory element (universal layer) of the scheme is achievable, accessible and economically sustainable for all, it will deliver far better results in the long term rather than focussing on short-term targets which are only six years away.

“If this scheme is not economically sustainable for all actively farming businesses, the Welsh Government can forget about incorporating a mandatory tree cover target within the universal layer of the scheme of any percentage of land.”

In response to a question from the committee around whether the current timescales allow for the scheme to be re-designed to the extent it requires, Mr Parry made clear that nothing is impossible.

However, whether or not the scheme is ready and workable by the end of this year will entirely depend on the imminent decisions the incoming Cabinet Secretary for Climate Change and Rural Affairs will have to make on how he engages with the industry over the coming months.

“The industry has been told repeatedly that this scheme will not be introduced until it is ready. We therefore left the committee in no doubt that if we find ourselves in a position where the scheme is not fit for purpose by the end of this year, the extension of the Basic Payment Scheme which currently supports farmers at current rates must be a real option,” he said.

FUW Policy Officer Elin Jenkins added: “We need clear direction from the incoming Cabinet Secretary for Climate Change and Rural Affairs on how he intends to genuinely engage with the industry at this crucial time, and we sincerely hope to have an urgent meeting immediately after the Senedd recess.

“What we want to see is the establishment of a small focussed SFS design stakeholder group which can consider changes to the scheme design.”