The Countryside Alliance has today (Wednesday, May 25) launched a petition calling on the Welsh Government and Natural Resources Wales (NRW) to stop purchasing productive farmland for tree planting.

The campaigners argue that while tree planting does bring benefits to the environment, both the government and private companies should not be planting trees on land which can be used for farming, claiming it "threatens food security and self-dependency".

The Countryside Alliance, the host of the online petition, said that the recent purchases, including 94ha of Brownhill farm in Carmarthenshire to plant a memorial woodland, "threatens our fragile rural communities, heritage, culture and the Welsh language".

The petition also urges the government to protect farming communities from private companies, who are buying up productive farmland to offset their carbon emissions from elsewhere.

As an example, it said that in the Carmarthenshire village of Cwrt-y-Cadno, Frongoch Farm was sold earlier last year to Foresight Group - a multi-billion pound private equity firm based in The Shard, London.

The petition states: "We [the Countryside Alliance] are deeply concerned about the number of companies purchasing productive farmland for tree planting to offset their carbon emissions and feel that the Welsh Government should further protect our communities from this practice."

Commenting on the petition, director of the Countryside Alliance Wales, Rachel Evans said: "‘We simply cannot stand by and allow prime agricultural land in Wales to disappear. Doing so risks destroying generations of vital farming heritage.

"Rightly, we are talking more and more about food security and the need for self-dependency, but this will be hampered if there is less land for farming to take place.

"Clearly, there needs to be balance and while tree planting does bring benefits, future projects need to be considered alongside the potential impact on local communities and the ability to produce food here in Wales.

"The Welsh Government has an ambitious aim of planting more and more trees, which may well make for short-term flashy PR [public relations], but it’s rural people who are left with the aftermath of tree planting projects that just haven’t been thought through.

"We urge people living in Wales to sign our petition today."