Welsh Government’s proposed Sustainable Farming Scheme does not provide equal access for farmers who do not own the land that they farm. That is the message from farmers across Wales.  

At the NFU Cymru National Tenants Event at Builth Wells last week, Welsh Government’s Sustainable Farming Scheme ‘Keeping Farmers Farming’ consultation was considered. This sets out how the Basic Payment Scheme is to be fully phased out by 2029 and replaced by the Sustainable Farming Scheme from 2025, with farmers who wish to participate receiving a Universal Baseline Payment in return for delivering 17 Universal Actions and two scheme rules. 

Addressing concerns raised previously by NFU Cymru, Welsh Government proposes that the Universal Action layer of the scheme will be delivered through annual agreement rather than five-year contracts to aid access for those with shorter term Farm Business Tenancies and lets.  Tenant farmers who are able to prove through their tenancy agreements that they are unable to manage woodland or plant additional trees will be exempted from the 10% tree cover requirement.

NFU Cymru President Aled Jones said: “Welsh Government proposals go some way to enabling tenant farmers to access the scheme. But it is important to recognise that this is not equal access and tenant farmers remain disadvantaged by the latest Sustainable Farming Scheme proposals. 

“Tenant farmers may not have to meet the 10% tree cover requirement but critically, nor will they be able to access the associated component of the Universal Baseline Payment. In trying to address one issue, the inability of many tenant farmers to meet the 10% requirement due to the nature of their tenancy agreement, Welsh Government has now created another issue in that the Universal Baseline Payment tenant farmers receive, will be lower than it would be if they owned a similar hectarage of land. It is simply unacceptable to disadvantage the tenanted sector in this way.”

Mr Jones added: “During the course of the meeting, tenant farmers also raised concerns about their ability to deliver a number of the other Universal Actions including ponds and scrapes and the requirement to maintain traditional farm buildings in a stable condition. It was highlighted that the need to get permissions to undertake a number of the actions had the potential to weaken the position of tenants with their landlord. Overall, it remains clear that the Universal Actions proposed by Welsh Government are far from universal – in that they are not possible for all farmers to undertake.

“Tenant farmers are also very concerned about Welsh Government’s proposed payment methodology and the move to pay the Universal Baseline Payment on the basis of costs incurred and income foregone calculations. This, together with the fact that there is only a time limited stability mechanism, is likely to jeopardise many farm businesses, particularly tenant farmers with rent to pay and more limited diversification opportunities.”

Concluding NFU Cymru Tenants Chair Elwyn Evans said: “With around 30% of land in Wales under some form of tenancy or let, is it vital that Welsh Government recognises that equal access to the Sustainable Farming Scheme is essential for tenant farmers, not only for their continued farm business viability, but also for the achievement of Welsh Government’s own objectives for the scheme. NFU Cymru has long highlighted that a vibrant, thriving tenanted sector is also vital for Welsh farming as a whole, providing opportunities for new entrants and young farmers.

 “Whilst it is important to recognise the work that Welsh Government has undertaken in seeking to address concerns raised as a result of the original outline proposals, the unequivocal view from our meeting was that the current proposals still do not work for tenant farmers.” 

NFU Cymru remains clear that tenant farmers must be able to enter the scheme on an equal footing to other farmers and the Sustainable Farming Scheme requires a major overhaul to ensure this will be the case. 

 To have your say on the SFS proposals please visit the NFU Cymru website for more information on how to respond to the consultation.