Farmer Focus: Government must reconsider mass tree planting

As we are a small island with a huge population, large-scale tree planting has worrying implications. It often throws up contradictions, particularly when you consider our need to produce sustainable food.

The Welsh government has been keen to respond to reach its climate targets. In doing so, it is willing to pay landowners a substantial amount to turn their often quite productive farmland into forests.

This, of course, has attracted large business investors to buy land with the intention of reaping money from the taxpayer to generate carbon credits for the benefit of their wider businesses.

About the author

Dafydd Parry Jones
Dafydd Parry Jones and wife Glenys, Machynlleth, Powys, run a closed flock of 750 Texel and Aberfield cross ewes and 70 Hereford cross sucklers cows on 180ha. Their upland organic system uses Hereford bulls, Charollais terminal sires and red clover silage, multispecies leys and rotational grazing.
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From what I see, these companies have no compassion for the agricultural communities, culture or the Welsh language.

This is another barrier for our young farmers, as it denies neighbouring family farms the opportunity to expand and purchase land so that future generations can live in their local communities.

Keeping these local families in farming would contribute considerably to the economy and inject a much-needed financial contribution to local businesses.

See also: Major tree planting ‘will rob Wales of productive farmland’

There are many important issues on the national agenda, and climate change is one of them. But the existence of native Welsh people, their culture, being able to earn a sustainable living in their own area and keeping the Welsh language alive are, I believe, as important as all others.

We have planted more than 20,000 trees on our farm in the past few years, so you can certainly say I am in favour of the right tree in the right location for the right reason.

We’ve created hedges and woodland on undulating corners in various fields. I appreciate the benefits of trees to wildlife and animal welfare in extreme weather.

There is a call for the scheme to be re-examined and guidelines drawn up for planting no more than 10% of any one holding with forestry.

A review could be a good thing, as it might discourage investors who currently look at Welsh farmland as a carbon tax haven. The Welsh government needs to urgently change its guidelines before it’s too late.