calls to take action over Welsh plan

  • Post last modified:February 20, 2024
  • Reading time:7 mins read

TV wildlife presenter Iolo Williams has got involved with a campaign about Welsh government plans for farming under the Sustainable Farming Scheme. People are saying it ignores the impact on National Parks, and doesn’t go far enough in supporting farmers to protect the environment or mitigate the climate crisis.

Sustainable Farming Scheme: a new plan from the Welsh government

Nature in Wales is in crisis. For example, one is six species is at risk of disappearing from the country. Meanwhile, the Welsh government is currently consulting on a new Sustainable Farming Scheme to take the place of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

As Nation Cymru reported:

The Sustainable Farming Scheme will aim 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 Welsh Government says it 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.

Currently, the Welsh government is running a consultation on the Sustainable Farming Scheme. However, this comes to an end in less than a month on 7 March – and many people and groups are concerned the scheme doesn’t go far enough, and isn’t being implemented quickly enough.

Multiple concerns

For example, the Welsh government already kicked the plan further down the line – delaying its launch until 2025. As Nation Cymru reported, this then led to a bridging scheme farmers could apply to for financial support – but they were actually getting less money.

Also, organisations like the RSPB in Wales have raised concerns the Sustainable Farming Scheme doesn’t go far enough.

Now, the Welsh ornithologist Iolo Williams is urging people to have their say by taking part in an e-action organised by the Campaign for National Parks and members of the Alliance for Welsh Designated Landscapes.

Williams said:

With 80% of the land area of Wales given over to farming it’s imperative that the SFS is fit for purpose – for farmers, for people and for nature.

I can tell you that there are some positive things in the scheme for the environment, but there’s a lot more that doesn’t go far enough, or could even have a negative effect on our wildlife. The Welsh government must revise this scheme to address these issues, and this is where we can all play our part.

More work is still needed

Among the key points being made in the e-action are that:

  • Agricultural payments should support and encourage farmers to take positive actions which help tackle the climate and nature crisis.
  • Only 25% of Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) wildlife sites in Wales’ National Parks are in favourable condition.
  • The Welsh Government has a legal duty to have regard for National Park Purposes like supporting wildlife in National Parks.

Organisers of the e-action propose that the Welsh government should include a ‘Sustainable Farming in Designated Landscapes’, programme which includes funding for multi-year projects and the support of project coordinators and farming advisors within each landscape.

In addition there is a need for more clarity on, and an earlier introduction of, the optional and collaborative layers. Such additional support could really unlock significant improvements ahead of 2030 to help meet the 30 x 30 deadline in the COP15 Convention on Biological Diversity.

Williams said with regard to the Sustainable Farming Scheme:

Everyone can take part. You can do so either by making an individual response via the Welsh Government’s website, or by using the e-action that has been set up by Campaign for National Parks and the Alliance of Welsh Designated Landscapes. You can find it by typing ‘Write to the Welsh Government: Tackle the nature emergency’ into a search engine like Google.

Sustainable Farming Scheme: must properly support farmers

The campaign is also being supported by Mike Raine, an outdoor leader who produces the popular Outdoor Lives podcast, which is available on Spotify and other podcast apps. He said:

Outdoor leaders make a good living from our National Parks. But we do very much care about protecting the amazing wildlife and landscapes they support.

The Welsh Government is consulting on the future of farming and I feel strongly that they should be supporting farmers who are doing the right things to support and enhance wildlife and nature. That’s why I’ve taken part by using an e-action set up by Campaign for National Parks. Why not go online and take part yourself?

The e-action also stresses the value of traditional field boundaries, saying that dry stone walls and hedgerows are hugely valuable for wildlife and the landscape, that farmers should be rewarded for retaining and maintaining them, and that they should therefore both count towards the minimum 10% habitat threshold.

Eben Muse from the British Mountaineering Council commented regarding the Sustainable Farming Scheme:

This is simply an opportunity that we can’t afford to miss. The BMC is proud to support this e-action to provide the support needed for farmers to manage our landscapes in a nature friendly way as well as providing food for our tables.

It’s important that recreational, environmental, and farming organisations stand by this principle together, and we urge anybody who loves their national parks to do the same and take part in this e-action.

You can join in the e-action here.

Featured image via Iolo Williams

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