Minister rejects calls to pause consultation on ‘unworkable’ SFS

Welsh rural affairs secretary Lesley Griffiths has rejected calls to pause a consultation into future farming policy for Wales, which farmers and opposition Senedd members have branded “unworkable”.

Conservative MS and shadow rural affairs minister Samuel Kurtz wrote to Mrs Griffiths earlier this week, urging the Welsh government to pause its consultation on the Sustainable Farming Scheme (SFS), which closes on 7 March.

See also: Hundreds of farmers unite in anger at Welsh SFS proposals

During a subsequent meeting in the Senedd, Mr Kurtz asked the minister if she had considered his request.

Mrs Griffiths stressed she had held discussions with NFU Cymru about feedback from farmers from their SFS roadshows, but refused to halt the consultation.

She said: “We need to wait for that consultation to finish. There will then be further discussions. There will then be further economic analysis.

“No decision will be rushed and I have said there won’t be that transition to SFS until that scheme is ready.”

‘Enough is enough’

Mr Kurtz told Farmers Weekly that if the Welsh government persisted with its plans for an “unworkable” scheme, farmers “will inevitably make their voices heard”.

“The cumulative effect of the all-Wales NVZ [nitrate vulnerable zone], failure on bovine TB eradication, cuts to the rural affairs budget and now the Sustainable Farming Scheme and what it’s asking farmers to do around tree planting, has led many to say ‘enough is enough’.”

North Wales hill farmer Gareth Wyn Jones agreed that many farmers are unhappy with the Welsh government’s SFS proposals, adding that it should “pause the consultation and take a breath”.

He said: “We don’t need to rush this through. A study has shown the plans could devastate our farming industry and result in the loss of 5,500 jobs – that’s almost twice the jobs expected to be lost with the closure of the Tata Steel works in Port Talbot.”


Following a series of policy roadshows attended by more than 2,000 farmers, NFU Cymru president Aled Jones said he fully understood the frustrations the industry is feeling and that the SFS as it stands is not going to give them the stability they need.

“We met with the rural affairs minister on Tuesday [6 February] and left her in no doubt over the strength of feeling and seriousness of the situation following the robust feedback we have received from our series of roadshows,” he said.

Farmers in Wales are now questioning whether they should stage protests against Welsh government farming policies, which they say threaten their livelihoods and future generations.

Hundreds of farmers were due to gather at Carmarthen mart on Thursday evening (8 February) to discuss possible direct action – following a meeting a week earlier at Welshpool Livestock Market, which attracted more than 1,000 farmers.

One source said: “Farmers decided at the Welshpool meeting they didn’t want to launch any European-style mass protests. No one wants to disrupt people’s daily activities. We don’t want to be vilified as farmers.

“The second meeting in Carmarthen will discuss the possibility of protests, but nothing is decided so far. It is all speculation.”

In England, any appetite for farmer protests appears to be low. Martin Fox, founder of campaign group Proud to Farm, which held protests at supermarket depots last October, said there were no similar plans this time round.

Direct action pays in Europe

Continental farmers have won fresh concessions in response to their widespread protests, with the EU Commission shelving plans to halve the use of pesticides in food production by 2030.

That plan was agreed two years ago, as part of the so-called Green Deal. But addressing the European parliament on Tuesday (6 February), EU commission president Ursula von der Leyen said it was time for a rethink.

“This proposal has become a symbol of polarisation,” she said. “A different approach is needed.”

EU farmers have repeatedly complained that removing these agrochemicals would damage food production and expose them to unfair competition from overseas.

The announcement came a week after the EU agreed to delay plans requiring all EU farmers to put 4% of their land into fallow, while providing more protection from imports of cheap Ukrainian grain.

The French government has also promised its farmers a package worth more than €400m (£340m), including direct aid to livestock farmers and additional tax breaks.

German farmers have also benefited from a decision by their government to maintain subsidies on red diesel, while Spanish farmers have been promised €270m (£230m) in drought aid.

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