The farmers’ revolt comes to Wales

Welsh Labour’s green policies are making farming impossible.

Myfanwy Alexander

Topics Politics UK

On Friday afternoon, over a hundred tractors and pickup trucks brought traffic to a near-standstill along the A48 in Carmarthenshire, Wales. The convoy crawled along at five miles an hour – even slower than Mark Drakeford’s hated 20mph speed limit. And yet, the protesting farmers were greeted with honks of support from those they were holding up. Many appreciate that the farmers of Wales are at the end of their tether.

This is only the latest protest by fed-up Welsh farmers. Thousands gathered in recent meetings in Carmarthen and Welshpool, organised by a group calling itself ‘Enough is Enough’. Unlike the leisured soup-chuckers of Extinction Rebellion, Welsh farmers are usually too busy for public kick-offs. But lately, the Welsh government’s attack on farming has become too cruel to ignore.

The protesting farmers were directing most of their ire at a new government scheme that threatens their livelihoods. Last month, the Welsh government published a consultation document setting out its so-called Sustainable Farming Scheme (SFS). In 2025, the SFS will replace the Basic Payment Scheme as the main source of government financial support for Welsh farmers. Under these new terms, farmers will only be eligible for payouts provided they meet certain green criteria.

One of the most absurd aspects of the scheme is a requirement for farmers to plant trees on 10 per cent of their farmland. A further 10 per cent must be set aside for wildlife habitats. Under these conditions, farmers face losing up to a fifth of their productive land. As some have pointed out, many farms are physically unable to grow trees due to difficult terrain or weather conditions. The Welsh government recently made some concessions, disapplying the tree-planting requirement if conditions don’t allow it and extending the habitat deadline until 2030. But farmers are still, by-and-large, being ignored and pushed around.

It is clear that the ministers in Cardiff Bay are unaware of the realities of farming. Welsh rural-affairs minister Lesley Griffiths squirmed last week under questioning from the Farmers Guardian newspaper. It had not seemed to occur to her that farmers will be forced to make their businesses less productive in order to receive the government payout. The scheme is expected to cost farms around 5,000 jobs and an 11 per cent loss of livestock.

If the Sustainable Farming Scheme wasn’t bad enough, Welsh farmers are also battling against Cardiff’s nonsensical bovine tuberculosis (bTB) policy. The control of bTB is, rightly, an animal-health priority. But as the infection crosses between species, it is proving impossible to limit its spread without dealing with the main source of the illness – namely, the wild badger population. In England and Ireland, it is recognised that limited badger culls, as well as immunisation, can reduce the spread of the disease. In Wales, however, the government has opted to cull livestock instead of culling the cuter-looking badgers. Perhaps this strategy could prove successful, in that there won’t be any bovine TB if there are no more cows left to catch it.

The misery generated by this cannot be overstated. Having to cull cattle can be financially devastating, especially for smaller, family-run farms. Three weeks ago, Welsh TV channel S4C aired a harrowing fly-on-the-wall documentary, Ffermio, showing the impact of the bTB regime on farming families. Agricultural mental-health charity the DPJ Foundation praised the programme for highlighting the emotional toll it takes when cherished livestock are destroyed. The precarious nature of agriculture means that farmers are always found somewhere near the top of the suicide league tables. Policies like these only make matters worse.

The Welsh government continues to make empty promises about ‘listening’ to the farming community. But when policy is shaped by dinner-party chatter and fashionable activism, the voice of those kneeling in the cold lambing shed is never going to be heard.

It’s high time our eco-obsessed elites called off their war on farmers and faced up to the irrationality of the green agenda.

Myfanwy Alexander is a writer and broadcaster from Montgomeryshire.

Picture by: YouTube.

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Topics Politics UK


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