Farm leaders have raised 'extreme concern' after the Welsh government appeared to double down on its 10% tree cover target which farmers must abide by to receive future payments.
The Minister for Rural Affairs Lesley Griffiths issued a statement on the development of the Sustainable Farming Scheme (SFS) - the scheme set to replace the BPS and Glastir from 2025 onwards in Wales.
In the statement to the Senedd, she acknowledged that flexibility would be required with regard to the much-talked-about 10% tree cover requirement.
Ms Griffiths stated the areas unsuitable for tree planting and those being considered for exclusion from the total area used to calculate the 10%.
These include existing inappropriate semi-natural habitats, including designated sites, deep peat; unplantable features such as scree and rock outcrops and tenanted land where tenants do not have the authority to plant trees.
The Welsh government has set ambitious tree planting targets of 43,000 hectares by 2030, with 180,000 hectares by 2050.
However, NFU Cymru said it was "extremely concerned and disappointed" that the Welsh government was still going ahead with the 10% tree cover policy.
The union's president Aled Jones said: "We remain clear the challenges around these targets present a very real barrier to scheme participation.
"In our response to the SFS outline proposals, NFU Cymru highlighted the broad range of issues associated with the 10% tree cover and 10% habitat targets.
“Farmers will be prepared to plant hedges, shelterbelts, streamside corridors and field corners on appropriate areas of their farm but will not plant trees on their productive land."
He added: “It will also be vital that the final consultation provides more detail on what exactly farmers will need to do and crucially what they can expect to be paid."
The Farmers' Union of Wales (FUW) said that food production and economic viability had to be considered equally to the environmental aspects of SFS scheme.
FUW President Ian Rickman said: "Further concessions are needed if we are to avoid requiring agricultural land that is important for food production and the sustainability of individual farm business being planted with trees."
The final consultation on the SFS scheme is due to be published later this year, with the final scheme announced in 2024 for implementation in 2025.