An impact assessment into its Sustainable Farming Scheme proposals commissioned by Welsh Government forecasts a ‘shocking scenario’ for Welsh agriculture, according to NFU Cymru.

The modelling, based on the potential economic effects of the previous 2022 outline proposals for the Sustainable Farming Scheme (SFS), predicts:

  • A 122,200 reduction in Welsh livestock units, in effect a 10.8% reduction in Welsh livestock numbers
  • An 11% cut in labour on Welsh farms – the equivalent of losing 5,500 jobs based on current employment levels on Welsh farms
  • A £125.3m hit to output from the sector, and a loss of £199 million to farm business income (85%)

The recently published 'Potential economic effects of the Sustainable Farming Scheme Phase 4 Universal Actions Modelling Results', carried out by ADAS, Pareto Consulting SRUC and University College Dublin, paints a bleak picture for Welsh farming.

NFU Cymru said the data paints a ‘shocking scenario’ for Welsh farming and if this were to become a reality, one that completely contradicts the ‘Keep Farmers Farming’ title of Welsh Government’s latest consultation.

NFU Cymru President Aled Jones said: “Whilst this model makes a number of assumptions - including a projected 100% uptake of the scheme by Welsh farmers - these findings are, nevertheless, shocking to read.

"Even though this modelling relates to the 2022 proposals, given that the fundamental elements of the scheme have barely changed, the significant concerns held by the industry in relation to this impact assessment remain entirely valid.

“It is hugely concerning to read that Welsh Government’s own impact assessment illustrates such damaging consequences for the industry. There are also fundamental weaknesses within the report, not least that the wider impact on rural businesses and subsequent employment levels have not been modelled.

"As recently as July last year, Welsh Government announced record food and drink exports from Wales. Not even six months later and there are forecasts published that the core production base and producers behind this achievement will be significantly reduced.

"The Welsh food and drink sector is Wales’ largest employer and delivers multiple benefits for the Welsh environment, economy, communities and culture; it is a huge success story for this country. Our shared ambition should be to continue its growth, not undermine it.

“It is vital that as part of the latest consultation feedback from farmers and rural businesses are listened to. Many of the proposals that led to the damaging economic impact assessment are still contained in this latest consultation.

"NFU Cymru has long warned of the impacts of some of the proposals contained within the Sustainable Farming Scheme (SFS) scheme outline – not least the 10% tree planting and habitat requirements – on the sector’s productivity and viability. Welsh Government must listen and ensure fundamental changes to the shape of the scheme are made to avoid the damage the independent report highlights.

“This research only goes to further illustrate why there is such a high level of worry over the development of this policy. Welsh Government has said the universal actions will be achievable for all, however farmers continue to tell us that they will struggle to be productive and profitable if they join the scheme.

"Such a high and unacceptable level of reduction in on-farm labour, livestock numbers and farm business income, quite frankly, makes a mockery of Welsh Government naming this consultation ‘Keep Farmers Farming’.

"It is pure fallacy to suggest that these proposals are ‘Keeping Farmers Farming’ when the evidence published to date clearly shows that the SFS proposals will be so damaging for jobs and farming businesses in Wales.

“NFU Cymru Council members were shocked upon being presented with these bleak figures last week. This data will send shockwaves through the industry and our wider rural communities.

“This research commissioned by Welsh Government themselves, that estimates the potential economic effects of elements of the proposed SFS, must act as a wakeup call."

Welsh Government’s Sustainable Farming Scheme ‘Keep Farmers Farming’ consultation closes on Thursday, 7th March. Visit NFU Cymru’s website for further details, as well as a consultation support tool to assist farmers in making their individual responses.

  • Our monthly publication Pembrokeshire Farmer comes free with your copy of the Western Telegraph next week (January 31)