Welsh SFS scheme ‘expected to change’ says minister

Welsh rural affairs minister Lesley Griffiths insists she is still in “listening mode” and expects to make changes to the controversial Sustainable Farming Scheme (SFS) once the latest consultation is complete.

That consultation sets out the latest iteration of the planned Welsh post-Brexit farm support policy, including requirements for all future support claimants to have at least 10% tree cover and a further 10% of habitat cover.

Mrs Griffiths’ comments followed a meeting with the two main Welsh farming unions on Monday (19 February) – set up in the wake of growing discontent about a range of issues affecting farmers in Wales.

See also: Welsh farmers stage tractor protest outside Lesley Griffiths’ office

The minister said it was good to receive feedback from a series of SFS roadshows – both the government’s and the unions’ – which would be taken into account.

“I reiterated to them this is a genuine consultation. It is still open, and I would continue to urge people to take part and give us their views. We will consider every individual response.

“Once the consultation is over, I will receive a detailed analysis of the responses, and as I’ve said before I would expect to make changes to the scheme as a result.”

Key asks 

NFU Cymru president Aled Jones used the meeting to present a number of key asks to the Welsh minister.

These included the need for a long-term stability payment within the SFS, a full socio-economic impact assessment before any further development of the scheme, and a review of the 10% tree cover requirements.

Ian Rickman, Lesley Griffiths and Aled Jones

Ian Rickman, Lesley Griffiths and Aled Jones © Welsh Government

“The current pressures on the industry do, however, go beyond the SFS, with the continued ravaging impact of bovine TB on our cattle herd and the cost and bureaucracy of the new agricultural pollutions regulations being a huge burden for many,” Mr Jones added.

“For this reason, I have asked the minister to consider the establishment of an Independent Review Group to consider the cumulative burden of regulations and policies on Welsh farming businesses.”


Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) president Ian Rickman said that FUW had also called for an independent assessment to take place and a rethink of the proposals through genuine co-design.

“This needs to include an independent panel tasked with looking at alternatives to tree planting so we can work towards net zero in a more sustainable way,” he said.

Any new policy should provide a meaningful income stream that properly rewards farmers by going beyond costs incurred and income foregone, he added.

“The continuation of the Basic Payment Scheme at current rates, until we are confident the SFS is ready, must be considered, otherwise we risk a repeat of the situation in England with basic payments disappearing and the vast majority of funding available only through the adoption of environmental schemes and actions.”

Both union leaders stressed the need for farmers to have their say as individuals through the consultation, which closes on 7 March, following the minister’s promise that each response would the considered.

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