Minister for Rural Affairs Lesley Griffiths has published the Welsh Government's proposals for the Sustainable Farming Scheme (SFS).
The Sustainable Farming Scheme will replace the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) in Wales. There is no set date for its introduction yet, although the BPS is believed to remain in place until at least the end of 2023.
The proposals published yesterday (Wednesday, July 6) have been shaped by farmers and stakeholders who responded to previous consultations and from the first phase of co-design.
However, this is not the final scheme, and another consultation, on the final proposals, will be run next year.
"Over the coming months, we will be seeking the views of as many farmers and stakeholders as possible through surveys and workshops," said Griffiths.
"We had a fantastic response to our first phase of co-design and I would like even more farmers to get involved in this second phase."
What does it include?
Overall, the scheme outlines how farmers will be rewarded for the actions they undertake to deliver positive social, environmental and economic outcomes
This is somewhat similar to the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) in England, whereby farmers are rewarded for actions they take, beyond mandatory measures, to manage their land in an environmentally sustainable way.
The Sustainable Farming Incentive is the England's post-Brexit answer to the European Common Agricultural Policy’s (CAP’s) BPS.
Griffiths said that some actions farmers may be rewarded for under the SFS include working with farmers to help them adapt to changes in the environment or market, helping make the best use of their resources; supporting them to become more efficient, lower their greenhouse gas emissions and enhance existing carbon stocks through sequestration.
Specific details of the payments rates were not released with the scheme proposals, however we do know that a baseline payment will be made to farmers for undertaking a set of 'Universal Actions' which can be delivered by farms across Wales above and beyond what is required by legislation.
All universal actions have to be carried out by farmers who join the scheme. Advice and guidance will be available regarding these.
Examples of these universal actions include doing a once-yearly self-assessment against a minimum of sector and industry key performance indicators; having necessary biosecurity measures in place; carrying out soil testing at scheme entry; and collecting and recording data on Plant Protection Products used.
Additional payments will be available for farmers who choose to undertake 'Optional' or 'Collaborative Actions, the later with other parties involved, i.e. land managers.
“I am encouraged by Welsh Government’s proposals that in return for undertaking a set of universal actions, farmers will be able to enter into the scheme and receive a baseline payment," said National Farmers' Union (NFU) Wales (Cymru) president, Aled Jones.
"We now need to carefully consider the practicality of these actions and how they could work to support productive, progressive and profitable farming systems."
Overall, NFU Cymru seems pleased with the SFS proposals, as does the Country Land and Business Association (CLA.
Commenting on the SFS proposals, director of CLA Cymru, Nigel Hollett said:
"We [CLA] are pleased to see that many of our principles are contained within Welsh Government proposals.
"There is a focus upon farm economic sustainability which we see as vital in addressing the environmental issues Wales faces, they recognise the need for payment rates that go beyond income foregone and cost incurred, and they recognise that both maintenance and creation of environmental benefits needs to be incentivised.
"It is also good to see the commitment to five-year contracts which will provide long term stability for the industry.”
The full scheme proposals can be read on the Welsh Government's website.