A record consultation response from NFU Cymru members is a ‘clear indicator of the need for major overhaul’ to Welsh Government’s Sustainable Farming Scheme, the union has said.

More than 6,700 farmers responded to the Welsh Government consultation via the union’s website, more than doubling the previous highest response received by the union for any such engagement exercise. Over the course of the 12-week consultation, NFU Cymru engaged with more than 5,000 farmers and supply chain partners at roadshows, county meetings, board meetings, market visits and other events.

The levels of stress and anxiety the consultation has engendered within the farming community are clear. Welsh farming is in the midst of an upswell of emotions that has not been witnessed since devolution.

NFU Cymru President Aled Jones said: “We’ve received an unprecedented response to this consultation and the overwhelming strength of feeling from our members is a clear indicator that the current proposals need a major overhaul. The proposals must move beyond a scheme focussed predominately on the delivery of environmental outcomes and instead become a genuine agricultural policy that underpins food production, resilient agricultural businesses and rural communities, alongside and in harmony with our environmental obligations and ambitions. 

“We live in uncertain times, a war in Europe, unrest in the Middle East, political instability, and trade flows around the world under threat – food security can no longer be taken for granted. Population growth, climate change and increasing competition for finite resources make it a matter of increasing strategic national interest to ensure that our country can feed itself. Food is a public good and the Sustainable Farming Scheme must be more explicit in its support to maintain and enhance food production against the backdrop of an increasingly volatile world.”

Mr Jones added: “We must get this scheme right. Neither farming families nor government can afford to have a scheme that fails to deliver on our shared ambitions for food, nature and climate. We need a scheme that underpins food production, our farmed environment, our communities, our language and culture for our generation and those that follow in our footsteps. “