Well, what a 12 weeks it has been! Since Welsh Government launched its Sustainable Farming Scheme – ‘Keeping Farmers Farming’ consultation in December, the NFU Cymru team and members have truly risen to the occasion with a phenomenal response, writes NFU Cymru President Aled Jones.

Just last week, we took a symbolic display of 5,500 pairs of wellies to the steps of the Senedd to represent the jobs forecasted to be lost through the proposals. The stark visual display saw farmers across Wales come together to bring this to life. The boots provided for this display will now be donated to charities in Africa.

It was an extremely emotional and impactful reminder of why NFU Cymru has continued to lobby so vigorously for so long against multiple areas of the consultation proposals. We simply cannot see government move forward with a scheme that puts 5,500 Welsh farming jobs in jeopardy, never mind the additional knock-on this will have to further jobs in the food supply chain – the impact of which has not been assessed – and our rural communities.

Throughout the last 12 weeks, farmers across Wales have made their voices heard loud and clear, in a variety of ways, whether that be attending NFU Cymru SFS roadshows, attending Welsh Government events, meeting with MSs from all political parties, taking part in organised demonstrations or responding to the consultation.

As a union we have engaged with over 5,000 farmers, held nine roadshows across Wales, held 71 SFS events, hosted a national supply chain meeting and a national tenants meeting, received 32,437 views of our SFS webpages on the NFU Cymru website and consistently appeared across major broadcast outlets. This all culminated with over 6,700 online responses to the consultation, a record response from NFU Cymru members, which is a clear indication of the need for a major overhaul over the consultation.

The strength of feeling is clear to see.  Welsh Government must show that it has listened by undertaking a revamp of the scheme to avoid the shocking scenario highlighted by its own modelling.

The levels of stress and anxiety the consultation has engendered within the farming community will have escaped no-one. Welsh farming is in the midst of an upswell of emotions that has not been witnessed since devolution. This was highlighted by The DPJ foundation, who have received a huge upscale in those seeking help for their mental health in the last three months.

I must pay tribute to the NFU Cymru policy team for all their work in putting together the NFU Cymru response, which took on board each and every comment we received during our member engagement, and highlighted all that is wrong with the consultation in its current form. We are extremely lucky as members to have such a fantastic team, across the whole organisation, fighting for our futures.

The work continues and although the consultation window has now closed, we will continue to work behind the scenes to make sure we get this scheme right to deliver on our shared ambitions for food nature and climate.