Farmers protest outside office of Wales' Rural Affairs Minister

Farmers took to the streets on Monday as anger over the Sustainable Farming Scheme grows (Photo: 1GarethWynJones/X)
Farmers took to the streets on Monday as anger over the Sustainable Farming Scheme grows (Photo: 1GarethWynJones/X)

Welsh farmers have protested outside the office of the Rural Affairs Minister as anger brews over the future direction of the industry.

Dozens of tractors and other farm vehicles drove up to the constituency office of Lesley Griffiths in Wrexham, North Wales on Monday (12 February).

The protest was against the Welsh government's Sustainable Farming Scheme (SFS), which rolls out next year, replacing direct farm payments.

As part of the new environmentally-focused scheme, farmers must ensure 10% of their land is planted with trees.

But industry groups argue the changes will be unworkable for many, and are calling for a long-term stability payment to be included as an integral element of it.

Eilir Jonesm who farms near Ruthin, told the BBC: "We face losing 20% of land, losing over 5,000 jobs. Losing land to trees to offset carbon for large companies.

"They're the ones polluting, not us. We're the ones suffering. Why should we lose 20% of our productive land?

"Which other sectors are facing losing 20% of their production to reduce carbon?"

The protest follows a meeting of over 3,000 farmers at Carmarthen market where the proposals were discussed, with many believing their industry will be hit hard.

In response to growing discontent, NFU Cymru has urged the Labour-led government to commit to 'a major overhaul' of the post-Brexit support system following a series of its own roadshow events.

More than 2,000 farmers attended the nine events, where the union said 'concern and worry' were raised at SFS proposals.

NFU Cymru president, Aled Jones said: “Almost all of the comments fed back to us during these events gave a truly worrying picture of what farmers see the future of their farms looking like.

“The proposals as they stand will have far reaching impacts on Welsh farming, rural businesses and communities and it is vital that Welsh government listen to these concerns.

"Whilst the title of the consultation suggests Welsh government want to ‘keep farmers farming’ this will not happen if we are not profitable."

Brewing anger has also led the Countryside Alliance to warn the two candidates standing for the leadership of Welsh Labour that there is a 'growing disconnect' between the government and rural areas.

Jeremy Miles and Vaughan Gething are the only candidates fighting for the role of First Minister of Wales following the resignation of Mark Drakeford as leader of Welsh Labour.

His replacement - likely to be named First Minister after a Senedd vote - will take up the role in March following a ballot of party members.

Farmers are being encouraged to respond to the Welsh government's consultation on the SFS, which closes for responses on 7 March.