Welsh bovine TB and SFS motions narrowly voted down

Two motions seeking changes to bovine TB policy and plans for the Sustainable Farming Scheme in Wales have been narrowly voted down in the Welsh Parliament.

The Welsh Conservatives tabled a motion in the Senedd to scrap the new Sustainable Farming Scheme (SFS) in Wales, which is proving unpopular with farmers and farming unions.

The Labour-run administration is hosting a public consultation on its plans for the SFS, which closes next Friday (7 March).

See also: Video: 3,000 Welsh farmers tell government ‘enough is enough’

Under the proposals, all farms in Wales will be required to devote 10% of their land to trees, plus an additional 10% for biodiversity measures to qualify for public funding.

NFU Cymru says the plans for the scheme need a “major overhaul”.

Meanwhile, Plaid Cymru tabled a separate motion on bovine TB eradication and the culling of infected wildlife, as part of a holistic approach – a policy supported by the Welsh Conservatives.

Mass farmer protest

Votes on both motions on Wednesday evening (28 February) followed a protest by farmers and their supporters, the largest demonstration so far outside the Senedd building in Cardiff Bay.

Both votes resulted in a tie, so in accordance with conventiion the presiding officer voted down the motions, meaning there will be no change to the law.

Shadow rural affairs minister Sam Kurtz said he was “disappointed” by the results of both votes. However, he said they showed there was no majority in the Senedd in favour of the SFS or against tackling TB in wildlife (badger culling).

“If thousands of farmers making their voices heard against the SFS, TB and NVZs isn’t enough to shake the Welsh Labour government into action, then the first task for the new first minister, appointed later this month, will be to repair a deeply damaged relationship between rural Wales and the Welsh government,” said Mr Kurtz, Conservative MS for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire.

TB status quo

On bovine TB, Mr Kurtz said the Welsh government’s refusal to follow the science on the disease “continues to hollow out herds and communities in rural Wales with little sign of improving”.

He added: “While farmers in England feel hope that a TB-free future is possible, Welsh farmers feel hopeless.”

Welsh government response

A Welsh government spokesperson said: “Farming is very important to Wales and our economy and we want a successful future for Welsh farming.

“We have had a seven-year conversation with farmers to design future farming support and we are committed to continuing to working with farmers to develop the Sustainable Farming Scheme. 

“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.” 

See more