Actions to support the sustainable production of food, improve biodiversity, and strengthen the rural economy are part of proposals, which outline the next steps in designing Wales’ landmark future farm support scheme.
The Sustainable Farming Scheme proposals signify a major change and will be key in supporting Welsh farmers to play a leading role in delivering a more resilient environment and a more resilient rural economy, according to the Welsh Government.
Financial support will be provided for the work farmers do to meet the challenges of the climate and nature emergencies alongside the sustainable production of food.
The actions in the scheme are set out under five characteristics which show the variety of ways the Welsh Government wants to support farmers to help them deliver a wide range of outcomes alongside the sustainable production of food.
These include working with farmers to help them adapt to changes in the environment or market, helping make the best use of their resources and supporting them to become more efficient, lower their greenhouse gas emissions and enhance existing carbon stocks through sequestration.
A baseline payment will be made to farmers for undertaking a set of Universal Actions which can be delivered by farms across Wales and go above and beyond what is required by legislation. Additional payment will be available for farmers who choose to undertake extra Optional and Collaborative Actions.
The proposed actions include support to:
- Manage and enhance habitats across at least 10% of the farm, or creating new habitat features where existing habitat does not exist (Universal)
- Ensure necessary biosecurity measures are in place to reduce risks of spreading disease, including the provision of wash stations and ensuring farm boundaries are secure to prevent straying stock (Universal)
- Complete an annual benchmarking self-assessment to improve business performance (Universal)
- Restore damaged peatlands through ditch blocking, or re-establishing vegetation (Optional)
- Grow crops to reduce the amount of feed they buy in (Optional)
- Establish new horticultural enterprises within existing farm businesses (Optional)
- Support for farmers to work together across catchments to improve water quality (Collaborative)
The Welsh Government wants to engage with farmers from across Wales to understand how the proposed actions could work on their farms as part of the next phase of co-design.
To help farmers carry out the actions, support will be offered through an advisory service, as well as training and farmer-to-farmer knowledge sharing.
Payment rates are being informed by Welsh Government modelling and economic analysis which is still being undertaken.
A decision on how the final Scheme will look will not be made until further consultation on the detailed proposals and the economic analysis has been presented in 2023. This will include modelling the actions in the Scheme and assessing how the actions support farmers to produce food sustainably.
As part of the co-operation agreement with Plaid Cymru, a transition period will be introduced so stability payments will continue to be a feature of the Sustainable Farming Scheme throughout and beyond this Senedd term.
Rural Affairs Minister, Lesley Griffiths has thanked the industry for working with the Welsh Government to design the Scheme and has encouraged farmers to continue to engage. Feedback has been key in helping adapt the Scheme proposals so they work for all Welsh farmers.
The Minister said:
The Sustainable Farming Scheme has been designed to support what our farmers do best which is sustainable farming and producing food in harmony with the environment. I want to see this Scheme drastically improve our biodiversity and strengthen the Welsh farming sector.
We will rely on the commitment and expertise of the Welsh farming sector to deliver Net Zero and to halt and reverse the decline in biodiversity. The Scheme is designed to support farmers with this important role whilst at the same time helping them to continue producing high quality food to high production standards.
The Scheme’s sustainability credentials are the basis for a prosperous future for agriculture in Wales and we want to see this help the industry to capture more of domestic and international markets.
Today’s announcement presents these proposals in significantly more detail than has been shared previously. This includes outlining the structure of the Scheme, details on proposed actions, and the process through which farmers can apply.
The climate and nature emergencies threaten the sustainability of agriculture and present the most serious risk to food security both globally and locally. We must respond to this if we are to ensure we have a sustainable and resilient agriculture sector for generations to come and one of my intentions for publishing the outline of the Scheme now is to help the industry plan for the future.
The sustainable production of food and actions to deliver environmental outcomes are complementary, not competing, agendas.
Farming is vital for Wales and plays a key role in supporting our economy and rural communities. I firmly believe the Sustainable Farming Scheme offers a real opportunity for positive change, and with the support it will provide we can help the sector prosper.
We will be engaging with the sector during the next stage of co-design before consulting on the final proposals next year. I have always said I want to work with our farmers to ensure this Scheme works for them and our nation.