Last chance to have your say on Welsh SFS consultation

Farmers have just a few hours left to respond to the Welsh government’s controversial consultation on the Sustainable Farming Scheme (SFS), which could bring about drastic changes to the agricultural sector in Wales.

The final public consultation on the SFS will close at midnight today (Thursday 7 March).

The Welsh Conservatives described it as the “single most important consultation” for Welsh farmers and rural communities.

Rural affairs minister Lesley Griffiths says she does “not want to see a single job lost” in the agriculture sector as a result of the new policy, which is set to replace EU subsidies and be introduced from 2025.

See also: Video: Farmers put boot into Welsh government farm policy plans

But the Welsh government’s own impact assessment, carried out by Adas and others, has revealed the future farming scheme could result in an 11% cut in labour on Welsh farms – equivalent to 5,500 jobs.

On top of this, the analysis forecasts the SFS will trigger a 122,000 reduction in Welsh livestock units – effectively a 10.8% drop in numbers – and lose around £200m in farming income.

The Welsh Labour administration’s proposals for the SFS have prompted widespread farmer protests across Wales over the past month, including an NFU Cymru-organised demonstration in which 5,500 wellington boots were left outside the Senedd on Wednesday (6 March) – with each pair representing a farming job that could be lost if the plans go ahead.

The scheme will require all farms to devote at least 10% of their land to tree cover, and manage an additional 10% as wildlife habitat to qualify for future public funding.

Vote narrowly defeated

Plans for the SFS have caused divisions in the Welsh parliament. Last week, a Welsh Conservative motion which called for the scheme to be scrapped was narrowly defeated in the Senedd.

The vote on 28 February resulted in a tie, so in accordance with convention the presiding officer voted down the motion.

Shadow rural affairs minister and Conservative MS Sam Kurtz urged as many farmers as possible to have their say on the SFS.

“The more responses demanding the necessary changes to the scheme, the stronger the argument and the more difficult it is for the Welsh government to ignore.

“Thousands protesting at the Senedd and a display of 5,500 empty wellies could well be in vain if the consultation isn’t responded to. So please, take some time out of your day to respond before it’s too late,” said Mr Kurtz

Meanwhile, more than 15,000 people have now signed an online petition which urges the Welsh government to scrap the “Universal actions” and payment reductions in the proposed SFS.

Welsh government response

A Welsh government spokesman said: “This is a genuine consultation and no decisions will be taken on any element of the proposal, including how we achieve the requirement for habitat and trees, until we have conducted a full analysis of the consultation responses.

“We have been clear we expect changes to be made following the consultation, and we will continue to listen.”

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