Wales’ Sustainable Farming Scheme explained

CLA Cymru Senior Policy Adviser Fraser McAuley unpacks some of the detail behind Welsh Government’s future farming policy and what this means for members

Finally, after five years and three consultations, we can see some of the detail of what the future farming policy looks like in Wales.

There have been numerous bends in the road but what has been published seems very positive in delivering against the key issues Wales and indeed the UK needs to address going forward. There is a clear focus on supporting sustainably-produced food and the role of farmers and landowners in addressing the climate and biodiversity emergencies, something the CLA has long advocated for.

The announcement also provides much-needed clarity on the detail of the scheme structure, what it will pay for, the application process and the transition from the Basic Payment Scheme and agri-environment schemes.

Sustainable Farming Scheme: the details

In a nutshell, the scheme includes a farm sustainability review that will include, farm details (similar to the single application form for BPS), a carbon assessment and a baseline habitat survey. This review will provide entry to the scheme and identify the actions Welsh Government will pay for. The actions will be a mixture of universal actions that all applicants must undertake. Most prominent include:

  • Record of key performance indicators;
  • 10% of land for woodland/forestry and 10% for habitat creation/maintenance;
  • Undertake animal health and welfare plan;
  • Undertake a biosecurity plan;
  • Manage areas of cultural/heritage significance;
  • Undertake a five-yearly soil analysis.

By undertaking a review and the universal actions, applicants will receive a baseline payment via a five-year contract. There is also a range of optional and collaborative actions that farmers can pick and choose from that are suited to their business.

CLA Cymru is really pleased to see Welsh Government taking a holistic view of farming and land use with a scheme that addresses the different aspects of farm sustainability. We are also happy to see the commitment to long contracts that will provide some stability once the scheme is fully implemented.

One key aspect of the scheme that may cause alarm bells to ring is the requirement for 20% of an applicant’s land to be put over for woodland/forestry and habitat for biodiversity. We are considering the impact of this on those members who feel they need as much land in production as possible; however, other proposals within the scheme can contribute to improving input efficiency, which can mitigate land used for environmental benefits.

While the announcement is another step towards the future in terms of farming policy in Wales, it is more the beginning of the middle, with plenty of opportunities to further shape it going forward. Initial discussions with the farming unions have been positive, and the upcoming Royal Welsh show in two weeks is a great opportunity to engage further with the key stakeholders.

In the meantime, please get in contact with me or the CLA Cymru office if you wish to discuss this further.

Key contact:

Fraser McAuley
Fraser McAuley Senior Policy Adviser, CLA Cymru