Wales: 5,500 wellies placed on steps of Senedd

Wales: 5,500 wellies placed on steps of Senedd

Farmers have placed 5,500 wellies outside the Senedd today in a symbolic display representing the jobs that could be lost due to a proposed overhaul of farming subsidies in Wales.

NFU Cymru members organised the display on the eve of the closing of the Welsh Government’s ‘Keeping Farmers Farming’ Sustainable Farming Scheme (SFS) consultation.

It comes following a mass gathering of thousands of farmers at the Senedd last week in a protest against the new scheme which has been branded “unworkable”.

The SFS in its current form will require farmers to farm sustainably by bringing their existing tree and woodland cover up to 10% – and earmarking another 10% for habitat.

Farmers say this would never be practical whilst running a farm business and unions say the tree cover requirement represents a “major barrier” to scheme entry.

According to a report by the Welsh Government, over 5000 farming jobs could be lost as a result of the scheme.

NFU Cymru member and display organiser Paul Williams said: “Seeing these 5,500 wellies lined up on the steps of the Senedd is an emphatic depiction of the potential jobs that will be lost to Welsh agriculture if these proposals go ahead in their current guise.

“What makes our industry so special is the people and families for whom it’s more than just a job. We have wellies of all sizes and colours on display, representing those who have farmed for decades and whose families have farmed our land for generations, as well as those with smaller feet but big ambitions for a future in our industry when they are older.

“The MSs who have looked out on the display today from the Senedd must understand what is at stake and commit to ensuring the final Sustainable Farming Scheme proposals don’t harm Welsh businesses and communities.”

The uncertainty around the future of agricultural support in Wales comes against a backdrop of continuous bovine TB breakdowns and the slaughtering of thousands of Welsh cattle every year.

This is in addition to an all-Wales approach to bureaucratic pollution regulations which will cost the industry in excess of £400m to comply with.

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “Farming is very important to Wales and our economy and we want a successful future for Welsh farming.

“Our seven-year conversation with farmers to design future farming support is ongoing – we are committed to continuing to work with farmers to develop the Sustainable Farming Scheme.

“This is a genuine consultation and no decisions will be taken about any element of the proposal, including how we achieve the requirement for habitat and trees, until we have conducted a full analysis of the consultation responses.

“We have been clear we expect changes to be made following the consultation, and we will continue to listen. The First Minister and Rural Affairs Minister provided an update last week on a number of key areas to support the sector.”