Rural campaigners have launched a petition to save Welsh farmland from mass tree planting due to concerns over the future of food security in the country.
The petition urges the Welsh government and Natural Resources Wales (NRW) to stop purchasing productive farmland for tree planting.
Campaigners argue that while it ‘does bring benefits’ to the environment, the government and companies should not be planting trees on land which can be used for farming, claiming it ‘threatens food security and self-dependency’.
Recent purchases include 94 hectares of Brownhill farm in Tywi Valley, Carmarthenshire, to plant a memorial woodland for those who passed away due to the pandemic.
But campaigners warn that mass tree planting initiatives "threatens fragile rural communities, heritage, culture and the Welsh language."
In February, the Welsh government also announced that new woodland would be created at both the National Trust's Erddig estate in Wrexham.
Both plans involve planting at least 60,000 trees, which immediately sparked fears valuable agricultural land could be lost.
The petition also urges the government to protect farming communities from private companies, who are buying up farmland to offset their carbon emissions from elsewhere.
In the Carmarthenshire village of Cwrt-y-Cadno, Frongoch Farm was sold earlier last year to Foresight Group - a multi-billion pound private equity firm based in London.
It plans to plant thousands of trees across the valley, prompting locals to launch a fightback, arguing that the afforestation will be largely made up of conifers that could damage soil and have a negative impact on the landscape.
The petition, launched by Countryside Alliance Wales, states: "The current policy of using prime agricultural land will take agricultural land favourable for growing food out of production for generations.
"Furthermore, we are deeply concerned about the number of companies purchasing productive farmland for tree planting to offset their carbon emissions and feel that the Welsh government should further protect our communities from this practice’.
It adds: "The Welsh government and Natural Resources Wales should be meeting the challenges of the biodiversity and the climate change crisis by supporting regenerative farming and working landscapes.
"Trees are part of a working landscape and can be supported through farming schemes, but it is about having the right tree in the right place and demonstrating that tree planting needs to work in harmony with food production."
The petition is now live and open to the public to sign.