WELSH ministers are ordering farmers to set aside 10 per cent of their land for permanent tree planting. However, a leading MP has pointed out that 850,000 tonnes of trees are chopped down each year in Welsh Government owned forests, making the move “hypocritical and wrong”.

The agriculture community across Wales has united in anger amid intensifying unrest against policy plans farmers claim threaten their livelihoods and future generations.

Fury is being directed at the Welsh Government over its post-Brexit Sustainable Farming Scheme (SFS) – due to replace the EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) style of payments to farmers in 2025.

Every farm in Wales is being asked to reduce working land, instead having 10 per cent tree cover and 10 per cent habitat creation to qualify for public funding, which many are warning will risk vital food production.

Yet at the same time, trees grown on woodland managed by Natural Resources Wales (NRW) – Wales’ biggest quango - are chopped down and sold each year.

Around 850,000 tonnes of timber are produced annually from the Welsh Government’s own forests, prompting a furious backlash from Monmouth MP David Davies who described it as “sheer hypocrisy”.

Lyndon Edwards and David Davies MP
Lyndon Edwards and David Davies MP (Photo supplied)

“On the one hand, ministers in Cardiff Bay are telling farmers they are so important to tackling the climate emergency that they need to sacrifice 20 per cent of prime agricultural land for planting trees and other wildlife schemes,” said Mr Davies.

“But on the other hand, they are more than happy for their quango to chop down trees from their own forestry land to be sold.

“It is absolutely outrageous, especially when I am given to understand NRW does not have the resources to replant the trees it is felling.”

Mr Davies, who is supporting Monmouthshire’s agricultural community, visited Dingestow farmer Lyndon Edwards on Friday afternoon (1 March). 

“Lyndon explained how every inch of his farmland is already being used, including growing barley for cattle feed and growing clover for sheep - which is also a nitrogen fixing crop,” said Mr Davies.

 “These unworkable and barmy proposals to take 20 per cent of land out of production for tree planting and habitat creation, alongside a checklist of 17 other complicated rules, presents a very real barrier for many farmers in Wales. For large numbers, it is going to severely impact on their viability and capacity to produce food.

 “However, thousands of trees are being grown on forestry land owned by the Labour Welsh Government. But these trees don’t last because every year they cut down 850,000 tonnes and sell them commercially.

 “So land like Lyndon’s, which is perfect for growing crops or grazing livestock, will now be set aside for Labour’s tree planting schemes. While Labour is seemingly content to chop down trees on forestry land, which is perfect for growing trees on in the first place!

 “It all goes to show the Labour Welsh Government cannot see the wood for the trees. Of course, the real worry is that farmers will end up stuck with a whole load of trees and no money coming in if the Welsh Government changes its mind further down the line.”

Mr Davies added he is “strongly encouraging anyone who hasn’t already done so” to make their views known and respond to the public consultation on the SFS, which closes on Thursday 7 March 2024.