Shropshire Star

Crops Board voices concerns over Sustainable Farming Scheme

The NFU Cymru Crops Board has raised its concerns over the Welsh Government’s Sustainable Farming Scheme.

Tom Rees with Pip

The board met to discuss the contents of the third and final consultation and questioned the practicality for growers of many of the universal actions being proposed.

Members also raised concerns around the data provision requirements within the consultation.

Tom Rees, chairman of the NFU Cymru Crops Board said: “Board members were extremely concerned that several of the universal actions require scheme participants to supply and send in detailed information about their business to the scheme database.

"It is far from clear at this juncture what the financial value that government intend placing on data provision and the use they will make of it once in their possession."

Mr Rees added: “Much of the data Welsh Government is requesting is data we already collate on our farm as part of the efficient running of our business and to satisfy supply chain contracts.

"We are not content to provide this data to government without a clear understanding of why they need it, how it will be used and who may have access to it. We also want clarity on how government will deal with any Freedom of Information requests in relation to this information. This data is valuable to us and potentially even more valuable to government. If they require it, then they must guarantee the privacy of that data and pay a fair value for it.

“The board also drew attention to the universal action relating to scrapes and ponds. Any new construction must be undertaken on improved land and their presence will have agronomic impacts in the fields where they lie. Although farm ponds would meet the requirements of this action, to add insult to injury for arable farmers, farm reservoirs e.g. irrigation ponds, which are often a haven for wildlife, will not.”

He continued: “The importance of the arable sector in Wales is often underplayed as well as the role crops play in food production, be it directly or indirectly through animal feed. Arable and horticulture growers in Wales plays an important role in securing species diversity and the thousands of miles of hedges that surround arable fields, often with species rich buffer zones on the perimeters are hugely important for insects, birds and other wildlife.

"With so much of our cropped land located on coastal locations where wind and salt naturally check the growth of our hedges, I question how many of these field boundaries will be able to fit the requirements that Welsh Government currently propose for these to be included in the scheme.”

“For the SFS to be truly universal it must work for all sectors and all locations. As they currently stand, these proposals will add costs, reduce farm output and, for many arable farms will not be viable. There is still time for a government rethink, for the benefit of all.”