The next generation group of the Welsh National Farmers’ Union (NFU Cymru) has warned that the Sustainable Farming Scheme (SFS) proposals offer “very little” for young farmers.

The union’s next generation group said the Welsh government’s SFS proposals need to work for all farm types and tenures, and include a smooth transition period and the use of capital grants.

The group launched a ‘Framing the future for the next generation’ report last year calling for support for the next generation of farmers in Wales, with recommendations on how to do so.

NFU Cymru next generation group member and livestock farmer Rebecca Williams said the report included specific asks on the future of the SFS in relation to ensuring the scheme worked for all.

“Accessing finance can be a huge barrier to new entrants and so, we also suggested Welsh government explore opportunities to make it easier for new and young entrants to access finance”, she said.

“In their consultation, Welsh government say new entrants and young farmers are important and bring new talent, ideas, and entrepreneurial energy into Welsh farming.

“However, with no apparent financial support or any other specific provisions available for new entrants in their current proposals, it is unclear how those warm words are translated into meaningful policy that actually tackles the barriers that exist for those new to farming.”  

Young farmers

NFU Cymru next generation group member Bryn Perry said young farmers want to capitalise on opportunities to grow their sector and share of the produce consumed in Wales, the UK and further afield.

“We are ambitious for the future of Welsh food and drink but for our aspirations to be achieved, Welsh government must listen to our feedback and ensure the Sustainable Farming Scheme works for all farms regardless of farm type, system or location,” he said.

“Given many new entrants enter farming via the tenanted sector, it is also incredibly important that this scheme works and is attractive for tenant farmers.”

Another member of the union’s next generation group, Jessica Williams, said she is “concerned” that the transition period proposed by Welsh government in its proposals for the SFS offers “no stability for farm businesses“.

“Without this stability, there is a risk that the investment that is necessary in Welsh farm businesses to support the next generation will not be made, succession plans will be stifled, and our young people will leave both farming and rural Wales in search of a more secure career path,” she said.

SFS consultation

The Welsh government’s consultation on the SFS will close for responses this Thursday (March 7), and Williams is urging young farmers to respond.

“I urge all new entrants, young farmers and all those one day hoping to have a career in the farming industry to respond to this consultation,” she said.

“Young people are the lifeblood of rural Wales, we must make our voices heard to ensure we continue to have the opportunity to produce climate friendly quality food for the world.

“I would also ask Welsh government and the Rural Affairs Minister Lesley Griffiths to listen to us and to work with us to design a future scheme that not only allows, but supports, the next generation of farmers to keep farming in Wales.”