The Welsh Dairy Show returns (Tuesday 25 October) after a three-year absence, providing an opportunity for those working in the sector to unite once more and celebrate all things dairy.
While current milk prices are giving dairy farmers gathering at the Carmarthen event some reprieve from the impact of rising input costs, many farmers remain concerned about the policy proposals put forward by Welsh Government’s Sustainable Farming Scheme.
Dairy farmers have indicated to NFU Cymru that the current plans – particularly around tree planting – will inhibit their productive capacity and therefore they feel it is unlikely they will be able to join the new support scheme unless these plans are adapted.
Deliver for all
With Welsh dairy production worth more than £730m to the Welsh economy, nearly a third of the gross output of Welsh agricultural production, NFU Cymru has stressed that it is crucial that Welsh Government’s new scheme delivers for all farmers.
NFU Cymru President Aled Jones said: “Welsh dairy farming generates significant employment and income to the Welsh economy. More than 5,000 people are directly employed on Welsh farms and with 50% of milk produced in Wales being processed in Wales, the sector supports significant employment in the processing sector, as well.
“The UK’s departure from the European Union has brought about the unique opportunity to develop new agricultural policy here in Wales for the first time. These changes provide the chance for Welsh Ministers to craft legislation that is going to help Welsh food and farming continue to grow and achieve its ambitions, alongside delivering for the environment and the people and communities of Wales.
“However, our dairy farming members are telling us that the current proposals make the Sustainable Farming Scheme inhibitive to them. Many feel that joining the scheme will see them have to sacrifice productive land to tree planting and this will hinder their ability to supply growing markets, both at home and abroad.
“Of course, Welsh farmers recognise that they have a role to play in combatting the effects of climate change. Looking specifically at the Welsh dairy industry, our farmers are optimising the use of genetics, improving nutrition and enhancing animal health, all of which leads to more efficient cows and means our milk has one of the lowest carbon footprints in the world.
“Our net zero ambition means we are always looking at further improvements and Welsh farmers are amenable to increasing tree cover on their farms to add to the huge amounts of trees, hedgerows and grasslands already capturing carbon on Welsh farms. It is crucial, though, that if the number of trees is going to be increased, this must be done in a sensitive way that protects our prime agricultural land and in doing so, protects food production. This will look different on every farm in Wales, the blanket approach to tree planting proposed in the scheme simply won’t work and will see many farmers, including those in dairy, opt not to join this new support scheme.
“The Welsh Rural Affairs Minister has already highlighted that the current plans for the scheme are outline proposals and are not set in stone. We believe it’s vital that the Minister listens to the concerns of the industry on this matter – this scheme cannot be considered a success if it is not seen as a viable scheme to all farmers in every sector. Therefore, I urge the Minister to work with NFU Cymru and fine-tune these proposals to ensure the Welsh dairy sector and the wider Welsh farming industry can continue to be a success story that the whole of Wales can celebrate.
“Equally, I encourage all Welsh farmers to actively engage with Welsh Government’s co-design process and highlight the strong feeling from the industry on this topic.”