During emergency talks held yesterday (Monday, February 19), the Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) called for minister for rural affairs, Lesley Griffiths, to rethink Sustainable Farming Scheme (SFS) proposals.

The union said the rethink of the proposals should be done through “genuine co-design”.

After the meeting, FUW president Ian Rickman said the FUW understands the current strength of feeling and frustration of its members.

“We expressed these deep concerns and the resentment felt by our members and the wider rural community to the minister in no uncertain terms today,” he said,

“We have called for an independent assessment to take place on the socio-economic impact and bureaucratic burden of Welsh government agricultural policies, to include the SFS, bovine TB and the Control of Agricultural Pollution ‘NVZ’ regulations.

“This time must also be used for a series of regular meetings involving the minister for rural affairs and her officials with both farming unions to rethink the proposals through genuine co-design.

“This needs to include an independent panel tasked with looking at alternatives to tree planting so we can work towards net zero in a more sustainable way.”

Minister for rural affairs Lesley Griffiths said: “I meet with the farming unions regularly and I wanted to have a meeting as soon as possible after our Sustainable Farming Scheme roadshows and theirs had been completed. 

“I’d like to thank them for joining me today, it was good to hear the feedback they had from their events. We will consider this in addition to the feedback we’ve noted from our events. 

“Many of the issues discussed were common with those we heard from the 3,200 farmers who’ve attended the Welsh government events.”

Griffiths said she reiterated that the SFS consultation is a “genuine consultation” that is still open, and she is urging people to continue taking part and giving their views.

“We will consider every individual response,” she said.

“Once the consultation is over I will receive a detailed analysis of the responses, and as I’ve said before I would expect to make changes to the scheme as a result. 

“It is vitally important people take part in the consultation.  Please do find time to respond as your views matter.”

The SFS consultation closes for responses on March 7, 2024.


The FUW has said that the SFS must be accessible for all active farming businesses and provide long-term stability for such businesses and the wider rural economy which “relies upon agriculture”.

“From what we can see, the SFS in its current form will not be sustainable and is clearly not ready, and the minister repeated her assurances that it wouldn’t be launched until it is,” Rickman said.

“The continuation of the Basic Payment Scheme at current rates, until we are confident the SFS is ready, must therefore be considered.

“Otherwise we risk a repeat of the situation in England with basic payments disappearing and the vast majority of funding available only through the adoption of environmental schemes and actions.”

Rickman welcomed the “constructive meeting” with Griffiths and her officials at such a “critical time” for the agriculture industry in Wales.

“However, the ball is now firmly in their court and we sincerely hope they take our requests seriously,” he said,

“Finally, I still cannot overstate how important it is for every individual and business that will be affected by these proposals to formally respond to this consultation by March 7.

“It remains absolutely crucial that we all do so in order to have as great an impact as possible.”