Carbon trading, future agricultural policy and bovine TB high on agenda at Gwent farm visit

Farmers’ Union of Wales Gwent county chairman Wayne Langford and Union officials recently discussed carbon trading, the future of agricultural policy and the on-going bovine TB crisis with Plaid Cymru spokesperson for Climate Change Delyth Jewell MS and Peredur Owen Griffiths MS.

The meeting was held at Mr Langford’s farm Penrhyn, Nantybwch,near Tredegar. The family farm is a sheep and beef holding and Wayne and his wife Tracey look after a flock of around 300 Welsh mountain sheep, and a herd of cattle on the common in summer and on the farm in winter. The farm is also part of the Glastir Commons contract.

Touring some of the fields with the MS’s, Wayne raised the issue of large companies buying up farmland across Wales. He said: “Welsh farms and large land parcels are being purchased by private individuals and companies. They are predominantly from outside Wales and intend to use the land for tree planting as part of carbon offsetting initiatives and investments aimed at capitalising on the growing market for carbon credits. 

“It is very frustrating for local people, as those purchasing such land invariably have funds at their disposal that allow them to outbid local farmers and residents. The result is the loss of farmland and habitat; the movement of Welsh land ownership to individuals and companies based outside Wales; the displacement of Welsh families from the land they have farmed for generations; stark falls in the contribution of land and families to local economies and communities; and the diversion of income derived from carbon credits and other schemes to people and companies from outside Wales.” 

Union officials further stressed that eligibility rules for Welsh funding must be changed so that schemes such as Glastir Woodland Creation do not support woodland planting by applicants from outside Wales - unless they are farmers who straddle the Wales-England border (cross-border farmers). 

“Barriers to Woodland creation schemes for Welsh farmers must be removed to encourage and facilitate small and medium sized plantations that do not compromise Welsh food production and rural communities,” added Wayne Langford.

FUW Glamorgan and Gwent County Executive Officer Sharon Pritchard added: “The Welsh Government must seek changes to carbon trading rules in order to prevent companies and individuals from outside Wales from profiteering from the purchase of large areas of Welsh land at the expense of Welsh communities and Wales’ ability to offset its own emissions.

“Offsetting must complement rather than replace the lowering of emissions by companies and it is essential that some form of control mechanism for carbon trading must be introduced such that Welsh carbon is used, first and foremost, to offset Welsh emissions.”

Mr Langford further highlighted concerns about the future of agricultural policy in Wales, especially direct payments for the industry and the sustainable farming scheme. He said: “At the moment there is a bit of clarity on what the future holds for the industry when it comes to direct payments. We know that a commitment has been made until 2023, and we certainly don’t want to rush anything through. However, what we need is some reassurance that the future payment scheme doesn’t just focus on the provision of public goods. Public goods are only part of the picture and ‘public goods’  needs to include economic security and consider the impact on the wider economy.”

Sharon Pritchard added: “A scheme which focuses only on the provision of Public Goods and environmental outcomes would fail to take proper account of prosperity, jobs, language, culture and other issues inherent to the goals of the Wellbeing of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015. We also believe that there should be a cap on payments and a tapered system should be adopted to filter money to family farms and ensure the scheme supports ‘active farmers’.”

Another topic close to the chairman's heart is the on-going bovine TB situation. He said: “I have been lucky so far and have not had an incident on my farm. But the situation across Wales is terrible and the incidences of TB are increasing in Low TB Areas in Wales. 

“I’m speaking on behalf of all of our members when I say it is frustrating that the only response the Welsh Government has to tackle this issue is with increasing cattle controls and with greater testing burdens being placed upon our hard-working farming families.  

“There is increasing concern about the mental health and well-being of our members and this latest statement will do little to alleviate the emotional and financial strains borne by our farmers.” 

Concluding the visit, Sharon Pritchard said: “We very much enjoyed having Delyth Jewell and Peredur Owen Griffiths with us here on the farm. I thank them both for their time and we of course also thank Wayne for hosting us here.

“We are committed to do all we can to see our family farms, like this one here, thrive for years and generations to come. Working with all parties in Wales is therefore essential and we look forward to continuing our working relationship with our elected representatives.”