The Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) has expressed concerns regarding the possible implications for FUW members who are tenants of the National Trust, following their announcement to plant more trees.
On January 9th, the General Director of the National Trust announced plans to grow 20 million trees over the next decade by either planting saplings or removing livestock to allow self-seeding. This means that many farm business tenancy agreements could be altered as they come up for renewal in order to cut sheep and cattle numbers.
To achieve this, the Trust is hoping to spend around £90 million to create 18,000 hectares of woodland in total; increasing the proportion of Trust land that is forest from 10 percent to 17 percent by 2030. However, it is important to remember that, within the past century, the area of woodland in Wales increased threefold; from 5 percent in 1919 to around 15 percent in 2016, with mainly deciduous farm woodlands making up 30 percent of the area.
Agriculture is responsible for just 10 percent of UK greenhouse gas emissions whilst UK beef and lamb carbon emissions are 35 percent below the current global average. Transport is the third highest polluter and the Trust should therefore be looking at public transport options for their 25 million or so annual visitors.
The FUW is fully supportive of appropriate tree planting where it does not undermine farm productivity or the environment. However, the removal of agriculture has been directly associated with habitat and species loss. The charity ‘Plantlife’ have stated that more than half of all wild plants need regular management or disturbance to thrive - around 40 percent of species will decline within a decade if the land on which they grow is abandoned.
The FUW has written to the Trust highlighting such concerns and to ask them to clarify their plans.