The UK Government's plans to increase mobile phone coverage across Wales has "hidden and potentially expensive side effects for farmers", the Farmers' Union of Wales (FUW) has warned.

The union claims that the revised 'Electronic Communication Code' will allow telecom operators to cut rents paid to those farmers who have masts on their lands.

The FUW is calling for "prompt action" to redress cash shortfalls for farmers, which it says runs into thousands of pounds in some cases.

It seems grossly unfair that the big telecom giants, who already make vast profits, should be selling landowners short.

The union highlights that, under the revised rules - part of the Digital Economy Act 2017 - market value of land used for telecoms equipment does not relate to the use of the equipment.

The FUW says that, therefore, any payment is reduced as if it were an ordinary agricultural rent rather than "high-tech" telecoms rates.

Tudor Parry, the FUW's Land Use Committee chairman, explains that: "For example, a telecoms company looking at rural sites interpret that they can offer pro-rata agricultural rates. Therefore, if market rent for farm land is £150/year per acre, this means that a mast compound may only equate to £3.70/year in rent.

Worse still, if the farmer refuses, under the new act the company can seek to impose rights through the Upper Tribunal.

Parry also outlined the possibility of a situation whereby farmers who may have bought land on a mortgage could be forced to accept a mast site on their land at very low rent, and also be deprived of the use of that land for agricultural purposes.

The FUW cites a recent case where, according to Davis Meade Property Consultants - who work closely with the union - a farmer was being offered £4,650/year in a 10-year contract for a mast on their land.

After the revised regulations took effect, the telecom company in question renewed its offer to just £32 for the entire 10-year period.