National Farmers' Union (NFU) Cymru members have said that future tree planting proposals must be realistic and safeguard food production so farmers can continue feeding the nation.

Welsh farmers made their views known during NFU Cymru’s Growing Together seminar, held during the Royal Welsh Show in Llanelwedd, Builth Wells.

The Growing Together strategy comes at a time when Welsh Government has set tree planting targets of 43,000ha by 2030, with 180,000ha by 2050.

The event explored the themes incorporated in NFU Cymru’s successful Growing Together strategy and campaign, launched last year.

The Growing Together initiative highlights the positive role Welsh farming already play in harnessing a critical carbon resource in soils, grassland, hedgerows, woodlands and semi-natural habitats, with the potential to do more.

NFU Cymru said that they are supportive of measures that facilitate and reward farmers for additional woodland planting.

However, the union continues to emphasise that Welsh land is a finite resource and Welsh government’s climate change targets must be progressed in ways that are sustainable and fair.

According to NFU Cymru, tree planting targets should not be achieved through a binary choice of farming or forestry and safeguards are needed to protect food production and to avoid damaging impacts to Welsh rural communities, culture and language.

Tree planting proposals

In response to the publication of Welsh government’s outline proposals for the Sustainable Farming Scheme earlier this month which included a requirement to have at least 10% tree cover on their farm as a universal action.

The need for flexibility around the 10% target was also highlighted. Many farms will already reach or exceed this 10% threshold, however for others - such as farmers who do not own the land that they farm, common land right holders or those whose ability to plant trees is hindered due to their location.

NFU Cymru president Aled Jones said:

“It is clear in the context of the proposed Sustainable Farming Scheme there is more work to do to understand whether the 10% tree cover target is realistic for all farm businesses in Wales.

"As farmers, we recognise the role we have to play in making a positive contribution to Welsh government’s net zero agenda.

"However, these targets must be progressed in ways that are realistic for farming, as well as sustainable and fair, so that farmers can continue to produce high quality food for the nation."