Response to Welsh Government Announcement:
Wales needs a plan which brings together all our priorities in food production, managing climate change, biodiversity and supporting our rural communities,” says CLA Cymru’s Nigel Hollett.
I welcome the Welsh Government’s investment of £32 million in tree planting, but it’s time to set aside the silo-thinking about tree planting and food production: they should not be alternatives but part of an integrated range of mutually supportive measures which meet society’s goals.
Farmers and landowners are committed to play their part in meeting net-zero. Government’s challenge is to harness the countryside’s unique capacity to manage carbon as part of a rural powerhouse to produce food and sustain dynamic rural communities.
In meeting net zero goals the Welsh Government needs to focus on the wider gamut of plant life. We know that crops, grassland, hedges and field margins, peatland and our aquatic plant life all can play their part. Many can manage carbon more quickly and efficiently that newly-planted trees.
Nigel adds, “Improving food security and the quality of our food are going to be critical topics of debate when the Agriculture (Wales) Bill is introduced this autumn. Our Sustainable Farming Scheme should rightly reward farmers for both growing the healthy food we need and reward them for their work in managing carbon. We must place greater emphasis on the benefit of these working together.
There’s still work to be done to improve Wales woodland and trees strategy. The CLA has long called for a national strategy on tree health to protect and prolong the life of existing trees. We must put a stop to the leaky-bucket effect of investing in more trees when many are succumbing to disease and damage.
A more effective tree planting policy will include further care into planting the right trees in the right place, planting-density, range of varieties and companion-planting. Saplings are vulnerable: those who plant new trees need further support to maintain them and monitor progress.
Nigel Hollett concludes, “When the Sustainable Farming Scheme becomes established it is inevitable that the Government’s policy priorities and the resources available will drive this more holistic approach to rural land management.