Plans for roundtable discussions on the future of farming in Wales have been welcomed.

Climate Change and Rural Affairs Minister, Huw Irranca Davies, has announced the plans following mass protests by farmers earlier this year over the Welsh Government’s Sustainable Farming Scheme plans.

Mr Irranca Davies said: “I have listened to the issues raised by the farmers, farming unions and other stakeholders I’ve met with so far, and whilst the Sustainable Farming Scheme (SFS) consultation responses continue to be analysed, I want to move forward to ensure we address our commitments.

“The Roundtable, which I will chair, will review the key programme outputs and critical steps leading to the development of a revised Scheme, in advance of a final decision by Welsh Ministers. This will consider evidence such as the consultation analysis, updated economic assessment, and outputs from a supporting SFS officials’ group and other task and finish groups.

“The intention is to work at pace to identify areas of agreement and place the emphasis on matters where more work is required. I expect to have the first meeting of the Roundtable in May and my priority is to listen to the issues raised and to find a way forward which hopefully works for all.

“With this in mind, one of the first tasks of the SFS Ministerial Roundtable will be to look at any further and alternative proposals to achieve additional carbon sequestration within the SFS.”

In response, FUW President Ian Rickman said: “One of our key asks following the consultation was to establish a small focused SFS design stakeholder group tasked with considering details of different elements of the scheme, along with payment rates and overall budgetary requirements.

“We therefore welcome the announcement which outlines plans to establish such a group, providing us with a formal platform to scrutinise and rework the scheme so that it properly delivers for Welsh farmers and our rural communities.

“However, I reiterate this message again; the scheme needs far more than touching up around the edges. It needs a radical rethink and this group must now deliver meaningful change within the timeframe presented to us.”

The Cabinet Secretary’s statement also highlights how one of the first tasks of the Ministerial Roundtable will be to look at any further and alternative proposals to achieve additional carbon sequestration within the SFS.

“This development is also welcomed given the urgent need to evaluate the science around net zero and carbon sequestration to help develop the SFS. This element needs to take into account all actions farmers can undertake to make progress towards net zero in a sustainable way.

“The engagement we’ve had as a Union with the Cabinet Secretary and his officials to date has been positive and this statement reflects those discussions. The FUW is ready to burn the midnight oil to ensure we get to the right place before the end of the year, in order that this scheme is workable both economically and environmentally.” concluded Mr Rickman.