Thousands of Welsh farmers raise 'concern and worry' at SFS proposals

The Welsh government has been urged to commit to 'a major overhaul' of its Sustainable Farming Scheme (SFS)
The Welsh government has been urged to commit to 'a major overhaul' of its Sustainable Farming Scheme (SFS)

Thousands of farmers across Wales have raised 'concern and worry' at the Welsh government's Sustainable Farming Scheme (SFS) proposals.

The Labour-led government has been urged to commit to 'a major overhaul' of the post-Brexit support system following a series of roadshow events.

They were undertaken across the country as part of a comprehensive farmer engagement programme spearheaded by NFU Cymru.

More than 2,000 farmers attended the nine events, where NFU Cymru said 'concern and worry' were raised at SFS proposals, which will roll out next year and replace direct farm payments.

The union's 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."

NFU Cymru and other industry groups are calling for a long-term stability payment to be included as an integral element of the SFS.

The universal payment would provide a fair reward and a meaningful income stream for farmers undertaking environmental work.

A set of universal actions that work for all farm sectors, types and regions of Wales, is also needed, NFU Cymru said.

"The scheme must deliver the same level of stability to farming businesses, the supply chain and our rural communities," added Mr Jones.

"We need an SFS that has policies to underpin the continued supply of high quality and affordable food to feed the nation.

"It is clear to us and all who attended the roadshows that the current proposals for the universal tier and scheme requirements need a major overhaul."

Farmers are being encouraged to respond to the Welsh government's consultation on the SFS, with NFU Cymru saying there "has never been a more important time to have your say".

It comes after thousands of farmers met at Carmarthen market on Thursday night (8 February) to protest against the direction of travel the industry is going in.

Organisers said more than 3,000 people attended the mart to discuss proposed funding changes they believe will hit agriculture hard.

International referee Nigel Owens, who is president of the National Federation of Young Farmers' Clubs (NFYFC), told the audience that farmers "must stand strong and together."

He said on X, formerly Twitter: "I was truly honoured to address the thousands of farmers that turned out in a truly justified protest.

"The current Welsh government policies are not fair nor workable, along with their policy on TB eradication which really is not working."

The issue has 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.