Welsh farming unions have welcomed the announcement of a new timeline to introduce the Sustainable Farming Scheme.

In a written statement made on Tuesday, May 14, the Cabinet Secretary for Climate Change & Rural Affairs, Huw Irranca-Davies MS, confirmed that the proposed Sustainable Farming Scheme (SFS) transition will now start in 2026.

Confirmation was also given that the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) will be available in 2025.

Welcoming the announcement, NFU Cymru President Aled Jones said: “We very much share the thoughts of the Cabinet Secretary that this scheme must not be introduced until it is ready. Neither farming families nor government can afford to have a scheme that fails to deliver on our vision for food, nature, climate and communities.

“This is a scheme that will underpin food production, our farmed environment, our communities, our rural businesses who are dependent on a thriving farming sector, our language and our culture for a generation to come. I welcome the commitment from the Cabinet Secretary to take the time to listen to those impacted by the proposals and to work in partnership on the future development of the scheme.

“The Cabinet Secretary has made a sensible and pragmatic decision to continue with the BPS for 2025. This early decision provides much needed stability and certainty to a sector that has faced significant challenges this past year, while also allowing the time needed for the Ministerial Roundtable to work through the areas that have been identified during the consultation period as needing further consideration.”

FUW President Ian Rickman said: “We welcome the statement made by the Cabinet Secretary on the future of farming in Wales and his plans to work in partnership with the farming industry.

“Since the last consultation, we have consistently called on the Welsh Government to extend the BPS at current levels for next year given the amount of change required in regards to the Sustainable Farming Scheme within the proposed time frame.

“This announcement on maintaining the BPS alongside an SFS preparatory phase next year is a major step in the right direction. It will provide both stability for farming businesses and a solid foundation for meaningful discussions.”

The statement also refers to the continuation of rural investment schemes, including consideration of extending the Habitat Wales Scheme and support for organic producers.

“It is essential that we avoid any gaps in support during the transition from the BPS to the SFS which underpins the economic sustainability of farming businesses. The continuation of such support is therefore welcomed while we work to design a Scheme that delivers for farming businesses, our rural communities and the environment,” added Mr Rickman.

James Evans MS, Shadow Minister for Rural Affairs, said: “I welcome the announcement from the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs on the pausing of the implementation of the Sustainable Farming Scheme. It is encouraging that he has listened to the concerns I have raised with him on the future of farming support in Wales.

“It’s a positive step to see that the Minister has listened to the industry, the unions, and all those thousands of people who responded to the consultation by delaying the implementation of the SFS and committing to rolling forward BPS until 2025. 

“However, what we need to see is real change to SFS in its current form. The farmers I speak to have major concerns about tree planting, common land, tenant farmers, and we need to have more detail from the cabinet secretary over amendments he is going to make to the scheme to make sure we have something that works for our farmers, not against them, and safeguards the future of the industry.”