THE controversial Sustainable Farming Scheme has been pushed back 12 months following mass opposition from the agricultural community earlier this year.

Rural Affairs Minister, Huw Irranca-Davies has announced on Tuesday that the SFS subsidy scheme is to be delayed until 2026, saying the decision shows the Welsh government is 'listening' to farmers' concerns following widespread protests across the country earlier this year.

Protests were held outside the Senedd as well as in Aberystwyth, Welshpool and Carmarthen, attended by thousands who were against the scheme, which would have forced farmers to plant trees on 10 per cent of their land in order to claim the post-Brexit subsidy.

Farmer protest
Tractors lined both sides of the road by the Welsh Government office in Aberystwyth (Cambrian News)

The consultation into the plans drew 12,000 responses.

The Wildlife Trust has however criticised the delay, saying it is 'bad news for farmers, nature and climate'.

Rachel Sharp, Director of Wildlife Trusts Wales says: “The decision to delay the scheme simply prolongs the uncertainty at a time when farmers need to be rewarded for switching to sustainable farming methods which will benefit their businesses in the future.

“Delaying measures to help farms adapt to our changing climate now only increases costs tomorrow and so is bad news for farm incomes.

“The scheme offers a great opportunity for farmers to be on the front foot to address the changing weather – to plant trees for shelter for livestock, to switch to herb-rich grasses which are less prone to drought, and to store water in ponds on farms.

“It’s clear that the current food system isn’t working for farmers, nature, climate and even consumers.”

Llyr Gruffydd MS, Plaid Cymru’s spokesperson on rural affairs, welcomed the delay.

He said: “We’ve always said that the one-size-fits-all figure of 10 per cent tree cover will not work for many farm types and farm locations.

“There is now a recognition that this needs flexibility and that other ways of capturing carbon must be considered.

“I urge the Government to ensure that the Roundtable which will consider alternative approaches includes those with farming experience. They are the ones who know best what will work on the ground.

“I’m pleased that today we’ve seen the Cabinet Secretary take a pragmatic and sensible approach to the Sustainable Farming Scheme, and that many of Plaid Cymru’s calls have not just been listened to but have been delivered.”

FUW President Ian Rickman also welcomed the delay, saying: “This announcement on maintaining the BPS alongside an SFS preparatory phase next year is a major step in the right direction. It will provide both stability for farming businesses and a solid foundation for meaningful discussions.

“The development of the SFS represents the most significant change in agricultural policy in Wales for decades. It is therefore reassuring that the Cabinet Secretary maintains that the Scheme will not be introduced until it is ready.

“There has been a real frustration within the industry over recent months, and scrutiny of the finer details will be crucial as this work progresses over the coming weeks.”