not simple solution

21 July 2000


not simple solution

WELSH farmers get very angry when politicians urge them to diversify to counter falling farmgate prices.

Lack of capital, tough planning regulations – especially in National Parks – and poor rural transport links limit the options on the 28,000 holdings in Wales. Farm tourism, the diversification chosen by many in the past, is already overdeveloped in many areas.

In the past most woodland based enterprises could only provide very long term income. But a range of annual management grants and the development of new markets for thinnings are encouraging farmers to take a new look at their existing woods. A Forestry Commission project has also indicated that if incentives are good enough farmers will be prepared to plant new trees on land now used for sheep.

The three-year bracken challenge project invited producers to say how much they wanted to plant trees on accessible bracken covered areas. The answer turned out to be around £3000/ha (£1214/acre), or significantly more than the top normal grant of £1350/ha (£546/acre).

Peter Garson, the Forestry Commissions north Wales conservator, said the offer was oversubscribed and this reflected strong farmer interest in alternative land use enterprises. Five years ago it was very hard to get people interested in tree planting and the management of existing woodland, now they were asking about the grant help available. The results of the bracken challenge would be used during the current drafting of a new Wales Woodland Strategy.

At Cae Adda, Llanwrin, Machynlleth, the 1000 ewes and 27 suckler cows are still the main income generators, but the Pughe familys long involvement with timber is flourishing. Their most recent investment is in 22ha (55 acres) of mixed woodland on steep land previously infested with bracken, on which they received £30,000 in Forestry Commission grants.

With a neighbour they have also set up a saw mill on the farm to process the products of their 48ha (120 acres) of trees, and timber from others in the area. This was grant aid by the rural development agency Menter Powys.

When members of the Farmers Union of Waless Montgomeryshire branch visited the 323ha (800 acre) farm they heard that forestry was fully integrated with livestock production. Trees provided stock shelter and the saw mill added value to the timber extracted.

The family benefit from new markets developed by Coed Cymru, the advisory agency that co-ordinates farm based forestry in Wales. Small diameter hardwood thinnings used as firewood in the past are being processed using a special saw and turned into furniture and wood block flooring.

FUWpresident Bob Parry (left) and Rhodri Glyn Thomas AM (centre)

during a visit to Dafydd Pughes Cae Adda Farm, Machyn


Mr Pughe and his family have just planted 22ha (55 acres) of mixed woodland.

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