Good farming land risks being wasted across Monmouthshire to satisfy Welsh Government plans for tree planting, with an MP warning it will lead to a decrease in food production.
Every farm in Wales is being asked to reduce working land, instead having 10 per cent tree cover and 10 per cent habitat creation to qualify for public funding.
Under the post-Brexit Sustainable Farming Scheme (SFS) - due to replace the Basic Farming Scheme and Glastir from 2025 – farmers will be “rewarded” with a new form of support for actions in addressing climate change.
The Welsh Government has set ambitious tree planting targets of 43,000 hectares by 2030, with 180,000 hectares by 2050. Creating ponds and helping manage wildlife habitats are also requirements of the new scheme.
But Monmouth MP David Davies said the proposals are causing “dismay” among the farming community and will be “economically detrimental” to the rural economy.
He was welcomed by NFU Cymru to the farm of Lyndon Edwards in Dingestow to talk about the importance of productive farming land - where livestock work alongside growing arable and grass crops - and reducing the reliance on imported inputs.
“Lyndon explained how every inch of ground is already being used, including growing barley for cattle feed and growing clover for sheep - which is also a nitrogen fixing crop,” said Mr Davies.
“The Welsh Government’s 10 per cent tree cover targets present a very real barrier for many farmers in Wales. For large numbers, this is going to severely impact on their viability and capacity to produce food, not to mention the knock-on effects which will impact local contractors and other industries serving the agricultural sector.
“However, meeting such a requirement would be impossible for some farms, preventing them from being able to access any form of income through the new SFS.
“There are many other ways to achieve equivalent reductions in emissions other than tree planting and this is yet another example of ministers in Cardiff Bay failing to grasp the impact of their proposals on farming businesses.”
Mr Davies said he would be urging the Welsh Government to rethink its strategy and remove or lower the requirement for farmers to place land out of production for tree planting.
“The real worry is that farmers will end up stuck with a whole load of trees and no money coming in if the Welsh Government changes its mind further down the line,” he added.
“This is on top of concerns that big companies from abroad or even from London who have got no agricultural interest will be buying up land to plant trees just so they can claim carbon offset credits.
“What we ultimately want to see moving forward is a flexible scheme that farmers can engage with and that works for their businesses, rather than waste good farming land if blanket afforestation is allowed.”