Leap-frogging other UK Governments, the country this week released detailed plans for future support payments in the form of a consultation document. The details also include a “stability” element to the payments which would be guaranteed through to 2029.
The Sustainable Farming Scheme will see three tiers of support – with the first involving mandatory actions while the second allows additional optional elements to be adopted while a third tier will focus on collaborative ventures involving several farming businesses.
The administration said that a baseline payment would be made to farmers for undertaking a set of Universal Actions which could be delivered by farms across Wales and go above and beyond what was required by legislation.
As well as the habitat and tree requirements, the proposed actions include support to ensure biosecurity measures are in place to reduce risks of spreading disease, including the provision of wash stations and ensuring farm boundaries are secure to prevent straying stock.
Farm businesses will also be required to complete an annual benchmarking self-assessment to improve business performance.
The optional measures include restoring damaged peatlands through ditch blocking, or re-establishing vegetation, growing crops to reduce the amount of feed bought in and the establishment of new horticultural enterprises within existing farm businesses.
The collaborative option will include schemes which would see farmers work together across catchments to improve water quality.
The Welsh Government said that to help farmers carry out the actions, support would be offered through an advisory service, as well as training and farmer-to-farmer knowledge sharing.
Payment rates for the various schemes have yet to be revealed with modelling and economic analysis still being undertaken by the administration – and assurances have yet to be made that the £337 million p/a budget previously funded by the EU would continue to be made available by the UK Treasury in the next parliament.
A decision on how the final Scheme will look will not be made until further consultation on the detailed proposals and the economic analysis and a consideration of the effects on food security has been presented in 2023.
The country’s Rural Affairs Minister, Lesley Griffiths said the plans had been designed to support farmers to farm sustainably and produce food in harmony with the environment:
“I want to see this Scheme drastically improve our biodiversity and strengthen the Welsh farming sector.
“We will rely on the commitment and expertise of the Welsh farming sector to deliver Net Zero and to halt and reverse the decline in biodiversity. The Scheme is designed to support farmers with this important role whilst at the same time helping them to continue producing high quality food to high production standards.
She said that farmers now had significantly more detail than had been shared previously, including the outlining the structure of the Scheme, details on proposed actions, and the process through which farmers could apply.