The Welsh Government’s planned Sustainable Farming Scheme is “nothing short of unworkable”, says Fay Jones.

The views of Brecon and Radnorshire farmers were raised in Parliament twice in the space of 24 hours.

Brecon and Radnorshire MP Fay Jones led a debate in the House of Commons on the importance of maintaining both food production and environmental delivery. She was speaking in her capacity as the Minister for Wales, working in concert with counterparts in Defra. It is one of the few times that a Welsh MP has led a debate on a topic devolved to the Welsh Parliament in Wales.

Speaking from the Despatch Box, Ms Jones outlined recently announced changes from the UK Conservative Government to schemes on offer in England in comparison to deep concern at proposals in Wales.

She contrasted the approaches between UK and Welsh Governments - highlighting the rigidity of the Sustainable Farming Scheme in Wales compared to the options farmers in England have.

Speaking about Wales, Ms Jones said: “Instead of farmers being freed from the burden of red tape, they will be forced into an atrocious set of data-gathering and reporting on a yearly basis.” 

Ms Jones told MPs in the House of Commons that the scheme was “nothing short of unworkable.”

The Brecon and Radnorshire MP was particularly critical of the scheme’s “two headline items” - that farmers must remove 10 per cent of land for planting trees and a further 10 per cent for habitat construction.

She said in Parliament: “Given the global uncertainty we face, it is madness that the Welsh Government wants to reduce the amount of land available for food production. We should be boosting our food security, not reducing it.

“The sustainable scheme will, according to the Welsh Government’s own analysis, cost 5,500 jobs on farms, not to say anything about the impact on the wider supply chain.”

Ms Jones said Welsh farmers want to deliver in terms of food production and the environment, and they want their Government to listen to them.

She also urged Plaid Cymru to withdraw its support for the Welsh Labour Government’s co-operation agreement.

Ms Jones said: “To make the Sustainable Farming Scheme go away, all it needs to do is vote against the Welsh Government’s budget and force them to go back to the table, listen to farmers and make improvements to the scheme. Were it to withdraw from the co-operation agreement - or coalition, as I call it - it could get this off the table, which is what all farmers want.

“They want to deliver for the environment and food production, and they want their Government to listen to them.”

Speaking after the debate, Ms Jones said: “I was delighted to open the debate on behalf of the Government and speak on behalf of the many thousands of farmers I represent. My constituency of Brecon and Radnorshire is home to proud beef, sheep and poultry farmers - 365 days a year, they produce world-class food which is good for our health, good for our economy and good for our environment.

“It’s vital that MPs in Westminster hear the concerns of Welsh farmers.  Whether NVZs, bovine TB or the Sustainable Farming Scheme – these are all examples of ill-thought-out policies from a Government determined to set their face against farming in Wales.

“In contrast, the record of the UK Conservative Government is clear. This Government will always support and be proud of British farming. I will continue to use my role in Westminster to speak for farmers who feel as though the Welsh Labour Government is not listening to them.”