Welsh policy roundtable to review 10% tree cover plans

Controversial plans to make every farm in Wales plant at least 10% of their productive land with trees are likely to be revised, with the government announcing a new SFS Ministerial Roundtable to review many aspects of its planned post-Brexit policy.

The 10% tree planting idea is one of 17 “universal actions” contained in the most recent (now closed) consultation on the proposed Sustainable Farming Scheme which farmers would have to meet to access taxpayer support.

See also: Can Welsh tree cover plans work for farmers?

But the proposal has met with consistent opposition from the main farming unions and has been one of the key objections they have put to new Welsh rural affairs secretary Huw Irranca-Davies, since he took over the role from Lesley Griffiths in March.

In a written ministerial statement issued on Friday (3 May) Mr Irranca-Davies insists he is still in listening mode.

“Our future farm support needs to deliver multiple outcomes for all of Wales, but must have farmers at the heart of it,” he said.


The new roundtable, which will be chaired by the cabinet secretary and involve the farm unions and other stakeholders, will consider the responses to the most recent consultation and updated economic assessments, and work to develop a revised SFS.

“One of the first tasks will be to look at any further and alternative proposals to achieve additional carbon sequestration within the SFS,” said Mr Irranca Davies.

“The farming unions and other stakeholders believe the scheme should look beyond the existing actions, such as additional tree planting, which this group will now consider.”

The new SFS Ministerial Roundtable is set to meet later this month and its findings will help shape the final scheme to be signed off by ministers.

NFU Cymru response

The setting up of the new group has been welcomed by NFU Cymru president Aled Jones, who says it has been one of the union’s key asks in meetings with government officials.

“Mandating 10% tree cover has come across as a clear insurmountable barrier for many to access the Sustainable Farming Scheme,” he said.

“I’m therefore pleased that the cabinet secretary has agreed to establish a group that will, among other things, consider alternative proposals to achieve additional carbon sequestration within the new scheme.

“We have world-class scientists on our doorstep, we need to make use of their expertise and knowledge of Welsh farming systems, our soils, our grasslands, cropping and field boundaries, to provide us with alternatives, while maintaining our productive capacity.

“The level of concern, worry and frustration in the farming community over future farm support remains palpable,” he added.

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