SFS proposals ask landowners to do more for less

Director Victoria Bond-Rees calls on members to get to grips with the SFS Consultation: read the document and join us at our free events in February.
Fields including OSR, Wales

You can see the Welsh Government's guide and links to the consultation document on the Sustainable Farming Scheme here.

We’re halfway through the Welsh Government’s Sustainable Farming Scheme (SFS) consultation period. It ends on 7th March. It’s our last chance to shape the details of the scheme as it’s launched. Our summary is on the CLA website and we’ve arranged three free-of-charge events in North, Mid, and South Wales respectively. Here we’ll be deep-diving into the proposals and I expect lively debate. Most of all, we hope the events will contribute robust, constructive feedback to take back to the Welsh Government.

The actions set out in the consultation are quite prescriptive and we know it is often those who are on the ground know the best way to manage their land. We will also push to ensure the SFS can work fairly for cross border farms and tenanted land. Your views on these fundamental issues will be vital for us when developing our response.

There are areas where we question the scheme’s management. The consultation refers to capping – but at what level, and when? Will these be subject to consultation? More fundamentally, we have doubts about the Government’s capacity to support participants’ in meeting the minimum criteria. For example the delivery, within schedule, of site management plans for designated land. How will participants be protected if the Welsh Government and NRW can’t manage the scheme on the ground? And finally, the proposals refer to grants for improvement of farm infrastructure such as yard coverings – but to deliver this, the planning consent process needs to become an agent for improvement.

The Consultation still raises questions which have existed for some time. Many will still to focus on not only the efficacy of the “10 per cent principle,” but also how it should be measured and managed accurately and fairly. Farms are to undergo a habitat baseline review which will raise issues about location, topography, legacy and land subject to natural issues such as flooding. Farms are also to undergo a carbon assessment. However despite the existence of several formulae already adopted in places, the Consultation is inviting views about options for carbon assessment.

Finally, the Consultation includes some welcome information about payments. A Stability Payment has been created for the transition period to mitigate against BPS shortfall (which will decrease by 20% per year from 2025 onwards). The scheme’s main payment will be a universal baseline payment based on farm-area. Finally, a payment will be introduced covering all other universal actions on the total eligible area. Many responses to the SFS consultation will make a fundamental point: the Welsh Government needs to consistently provide enough support to make it all worthwhile?

Key contact:

Victoria Bond Rees preferred head-and-shoulders photo
Victoria Bond Director, CLA Cymru