Sustainable Farming Scheme - outline proposals from 2025: frequently asked questions
Questions asked by farmers since the Sustainable Farming Scheme (SFS) outline was published.
In this page
We have provided definitive answers where possible, but we need the help of farmers through the current phase of co-design to provide their thoughts and experience before we can develop the detail of the proposals. We have indicated where this is the case.
General scheme queries
There is nothing in here to explain how this impacts tenants, common land, new entrants or farms that straddle the Wales / England border?
Farmers in these scenarios have been considered all through the scheme design process, but now we have a list of more detailed actions to consider.
We have convened specialist stakeholder Working Groups to explore the following scenarios to ensure proposals are appropriate, and these different groups of farmers have been properly considered:
- Young / new entrants
- Cross border farm businesses
- Common Land
What about those farmers who don't want to join the SFS?
SFS will be a voluntary scheme but will be the main source of funding for farmers in future. We have proposed that BPS will be phased out over the transition period.
The proposed National Minimum Standards (NMS) will still apply to those farms outside of the SFS.
Why are you making me reduce food production to plant trees or create habitat?
The Scheme has been designed to keep farmers on the land in recognition food production is vital for our nation. It also recognises we must respond to the climate and nature emergencies if we are to ensure we have a sustainable and resilient agriculture sector for future generations
We want these actions to be seen as protecting the food producing capacity of our land in the context of ongoing climate change. By advocating a land sharing approach, we want to work with farmers to find the best way of incorporating both trees and habitat into their farming system.
We’ve included actions like benchmarking, biosecurity and soil testing all of which will help improve the productivity and protect future food production
What has climate change got to do with me?
The biggest threat to food production globally over the medium to long term is climate change. In Wales we can expect to experience more drought and winter flooding.
These habitat and tree planting proposals are designed to help address these risks on your farm - for example peatbogs and wetland habitats help store water during wet weather, and more trees will provide shelter for livestock during extreme hot or cold weather.
Will there be a range of WG definitions on what is meant by resilient?
The SLM outcomes are defined in the Agriculture (Wales) Bill.
Can I pick and choose which Universal Actions to undertake?
No. Our starting position is that all farmers will need to undertake all Universal Actions to receive the Baseline Payment.
However, we need to consider some exemptions – for example, not every farm has peatland to undertake the peat management action. Some farmers may not be able to plant trees because of priority habitats or historical features.
With Benchmarking / KPIs – if I’m a low scorer will I be excluded from further funding?
No. Benchmarking is designed to help the farmer understand their costs, margins, inputs and outputs. The important thing is to make sure the farmer understands how to use the benchmarking data to improve their business performance.
Why do I need to create extra ponds?
We have lost a large number of ponds across our landscape. As well as the benefit to wildlife, additional ponds help hold extra water during wet weather helping to reduce the risk of downstream flooding.
There are proposals for growing more feed, to reduce the reliance on bought feed. Not all farms are suitable for growing crops, so will there be support for farmers to produce crops for other farmers in Wales?
Any farmer able to produce extra feed, would be able to sell that crop to other farmers.
Soil testing and management
Why would we have to undertake soil testing as part of the scheme, and would we have to test every field?
The action is designed to help farmers understand the condition of their soil, the existing available nutrients and how to apply nutrients or lime in a targeted way to avoid wasting money or inputs. It is important we make sure the farmer understands how to use the soil testing data to improve their soil management. We believe a better understanding of the condition of your soils, is an important component of supporting farmers to be resilient and productive.
Soil sampling all farms in Wales will put pressure on testing capacity, so testing needs to be proportionate, and we have explored the best way to approach this in co-design.
Will the scheme set limits for fertiliser use / soil indices?
No, but you will still need to make sure you are meeting regulatory requirements when applying inputs.
Will Welsh Government fund soil testing – including testing for carbon content as this is much more expensive than the normal nutrient parameters and pH?
Yes. We put forward in our scheme outline that farms will be required to undertake soil testing across the whole holding to include:
- Nitrogen (N), Potassium (P), Phosphorous (K), Carbon and pH
- a biological measure e.g. eDNA, respiration, counting ‘proxy’ species (earthworms)
- a physical assessment e.g. infiltration rate, bulk density or Visual Evaluation of Soil Structure (VESS)
What metrics will be used to assess soil health?
Soil health is difficult to define. What makes one soil in one part of the country healthy will not be the same in another.
We will ask farmers to undertake routine soil testing (see above) to assess soil condition and inform their practices, and optional action selection.
Which carbon tool kits will Welsh Government be using? There are many different tool kits being used by farmers.
No individual carbon tools have been selected yet. We are working with stakeholders to develop a simple set of requirements for a carbon baseline and exploring the tools already in use.
Are different carbon emissions being considered separately as part of the carbon review – i.e. shorter term methane from ruminant livestock should be accounted for separately.
The scientific evidence continues to grow, and we will look to report emissions in line with the evidence and international best practice.
The scheme proposals include soil testing for nitrogen and carbon, which is expensive. What is the point of testing for nitrogen which is very changeable?
Testing needs to be proportionate. We need to explore the pros and cons of different tests before we make a decision based on the evidence we have gathered.
For the preserving native breeds action – would this come down to individual animals or whole herd / flock?
Likely to be individual animals, but we haven’t got to this level of detail yet.
How does the aim of getting farmers to breed cattle at younger ages and finish lamb and beef animals earlier fit with incentivising traditional native breeds which tend to be much slower maturing?
There is no ‘one size fits all’ answer in relation to livestock systems. Finishing animals at a younger age will not be possible for all farms due to land type and exposure. Slower maturing native breeds, which are often hardier, may be better suited to farms with a larger proportion of semi-natural habitats more suited to extensive grazing
How will cattle maturity rates be addressed – maturing cattle earlier to increase profits, can also increase emissions?
This is one of our proposed KPIs but it is important it is not considered in isolation. We intend to support farmers achieve this through improving animal health, making best use of grass and producing more home-grown feed – all of which should be considered in relation to the carbon emissions from different systems. These aspects will be factored into the Carbon Assessment.
Some land is used for equine grazing. They have a significant beneficial effect on the community and diversification for Farmers. Where do they figure in the scheme
We have set out the proposed eligibility criteria for the Scheme in the Proposed outline scheme document.
We have explored eligibility for the scheme as part of co-design.
Would farmers looking after Carneddau Ponies be rewarded under the SFS?
We are considering whether the UK Breeds at Risk list is the appropriate guide to which breeds to support, but a firm decision hasn’t been made. Carneddau Ponies are not included on this list.
Trees and woodlands
Why do we have to plant more trees?
Climate change is the biggest threat to food production over the medium to long term. We have a target to plant 43,000 ha of trees by 2030 as part of Wales’ contribution to the global fight against climate change.
The 10% target included in the proposals is designed to spread planting across all farms, rather than have widespread land use change in localised areas.
Tree planting is not the single solution to climate change, however, planting more trees as part of a holistic approach can help us mitigate and adapt to the impact of climate change.
Over the coming decades, we are likely to experience more hot dry summers and wetter winters. More trees in the landscape will help slow the flow of excess water and will provide shelter to livestock in hot weather – which will be a direct benefit to farm businesses.
Improved soil management to increase organic matter is also an important method of locking up carbon, which is why we have also included soil management actions. The scheme outline contains many other actions covering diverse swards, energy use and livestock health – all of which will contribute to lowering carbon emissions.
Where should I plant trees to comply with the scheme? What is the ‘right tree, in the right place’?
There are many factors to consider when deciding where to plant trees, and we advocate ‘the right tree, in the right place, for the right reason’ approach. It will be important to consider where tree planting can be an asset to the farm - for example shelter belts to protect livestock from prevailing weather, and wider buffers on farm boundaries to provide valuable biosecurity.
A sustainability and habitat reviews will be undertaken and give farmers information so that they can is able to make an informed choice about habitat connectivity, landscape, timber production and ongoing management needs of the newly planted trees.
Do I have to have 10% tree cover before I can enter the scheme?
No, but we will agree a plan to achieve the 10% during the scheme period as part of your contract.
Will you make us plant trees on the best and most versatile agricultural land?
The SFS will seek to plant the right trees in the right place. The SFS will not override existing policy and processes which seek to protect BMV land as a finite resource.
Where farmers decide to plant trees on BMV land advice and guidance will be provided on agroforestry systems which maintain agricultural production.
Will existing trees contribute to my 10%?
Yes. Existing broadleaf and conifer woodland will contribute to the 10%, but we would still need to make sure that the woodland is being appropriately managed.
From a modelling exercise based on a large number of Welsh farms, we found an average of over 6% existing woodland on farms, so support would start on managing existing then creating more from there to meet the target.
We are still exploring how individual trees in fields and hedgerows could be counted towards the 10%.
Will hedgerows count towards the 10% tree cover target?
Our current proposal is that hedgerows do not contribute to the 10% tree target, but any individual mature trees in hedgerows will be counted. In the next phase of policy development, informed by farmers feedback through co-design, we will define the detailed criteria.
How will neighbouring farmers identify their management responsibilities and claims on boundary hedges. Will there be double accounting of carbon?
As part of the scheme, Welsh Government will fund pre-agreed works on boundary hedges. We will only be able to include an individual length of hedgerow on one farm or the other.
Will trees be measured on canopy cover or the number of individual trees? Newly planted trees will not form a canopy for several years. How will you avoid repeating the historic problems on farm payments where canopy cover and shadows have been mis-measured?
It is important we build on lessons learned from previous schemes. This learning, along with the feedback we received from co-design will help inform the next stage of policy development.
Will scheme funding be available to cover the costs of planting?
We are exploring which aspects are appropriate for us to fund through capital payments – no decisions have been made on this yet.
What if my newly planted trees die because of fire, drought or disease? Insurances currently do not cover the cost for re-stocking up to age 7 years.
We will pay farmers for undertaking the actions, If the outcome does not deliver because of circumstances outside of the farmers control, then the farmer would not be penalised.
Under BPS tree trunks and woodlands are still removed from the payable area, so farmers are receiving very mixed messages about tree planting.
The practice of removing trees and woodlands from payable areas will be phased out as we transition from BPS to SFS. Trees will be included in SFS payments in recognition of the many benefits they provide your farm and the wider environment.
What if I can’t plant trees because of habitat / peatland / historic features, or my tenancy doesn’t allow me?
We are considering a list of exemptions for farmers who are not able to undertake tree planting for reasons outside of their control.
What if I cannot grow trees because of altitude or coastal exposure?
Different trees may need to be selected for the conditions in different areas, or more sheltered planting locations will need to be chosen. We may need to add certain coastal zones and high-altitude areas to the exemption list if trees cannot be grown.
Do the tree nurseries have enough capacity to supply all this extra planting?
We’re talking to the forestry sector about building up nursery capacity in the coming years. This Scheme Outline is also designed to inform all the wider industries about upcoming changes so that everyone can prepare themselves.
If my farm crosses the Wales / England border will my 10% be calculated across my whole farm?
We can only support agricultural activity in Wales, so we propose the 10% only applies to the Welsh part of your farm. However, we have established a specialist stakeholder Working Group to explore how these proposals may need to be adapted to accommodate cross-border farmers.
If I have rights to graze common land and I currently claim BPS on common land, will the 10% be calculated against this larger grazeable area?
We have established a specialist stakeholder Common Land Working Groups to explore how these proposals may need to be adapted to accommodate common land management.
I have several dingles, could they contribute to the tree planting action?
This would need to be considered on a farm-by-farm basis. Those dingles may already contain important habitat areas (which could contribute to the 10% habitat action) so we would need to consider whether those habitats would be enhanced or damaged by planting trees in those specific dingles.
Will fruit trees be included as part of the 10% tree cover and would they be included in any grant schemes?
Traditional orchards are important habitat areas so we need to consider if orchards are better suited to contributing to the habitat action, or if we include mature fruit trees in the same way as we might include mature field or hedgerow trees to contribute to tree cover actions.
It is likely that planting fruit trees could be included for capital grants, but we have not made decisions yet on which individual activities will be eligible for funding.
I have tried to plant trees under Glastir, but have been refused due to the presence of ground nesting birds? Have these tree planting constraints been removed, or does this exempt us from the 10% tree planting?
We will need to consider a list of tree planting exemptions where for example, there is peatland, priority habitats or underground historic features to be preserved.
We will explore the exemptions during the next phase of policy development informed by the feedback we have received from co-design.
We are in Glastir Advanced, which prohibited us from entering the Woodland Creation Scheme? Why are trees more important now?
There were already opportunities to plant hedgerows and some trees in Glastir Advanced, depending on the priorities for which your contract was drawn up. By enabling other farmers to take up woodland creation opportunities we were able to spread funding for positive environmental actions across a larger number of people.
Tree planting can be detrimental to the breeding success of ground nesting birds due to the proximity of predators, which is magnified when planting is in multiple small blocks due to increased 'edge effect'. What has been done to investigate the impact of tree planting on Welsh Government goal to recover curlew populations on farmland in Wales?
It is important that the right trees are planted in the right place and that tree planting is suitable to the local area. All tree planting will need to be done in line with the UK Forestry Standard, which is the Welsh Government’s standard for sustainable forestry. The Woodland Opportunity Map highlights sensitivities which need to be taken into account when planting trees, including potential habitat for open-ground dependent birds
Does Agroforestry include planting rows of trees, i.e. silvopastoral systems?
Yes. All agroforestry systems are being considered.
Can I sell carbon credits from the trees I plant as part of the Scheme?
It would be the farmers decision whether to sell carbon credits or not, but we would advise individual farmers to retain their credits to achieve carbon net zero, before selling any extra credits.
If I can demonstrate that my farm is already achieving net zero, or is carbon negative, will I still have to deliver the 10% tree cover?
Yes. These targets are to spread planting across Wales to avoid widespread land use change in certain locations. Reaching net zero is a great achievement, but factors outside of your control may make you carbon positive again in future.
The target is 10% tree cover now, but will you make us plant even more trees in future?
We have challenging targets for 2050 and more trees will need to be planted in the future. How we delivery against these targets has not been decided and the work undertaken as a part of the SFS will inform the approach.
Where is the scientific evidence that a hectare of woodland sequesters more carbon and supports more diverse species than more productive land with rotational crops and high organic matter, using regenerative farming techniques?
There is strong scientific evidence that a hectare of woodland sequesters more carbon, however there are other opportunities within the scheme to establish diverse swards and build soil organic matter. We are not saying that trees are the only answer, they are part of the answer to integrate with other techniques in different locations depending on soil type, slope, exposure etc.
Habitat management and creation
What is semi-natural habitat?
Semi-natural habitat refers to those areas that haven’t been heavily modified for agriculture. The definition will be based on the EIA definition.
Peatbogs, heathlands, wildflower rich haymeadows, wetlands and coastal areas like saltmarsh and sand dune all count as semi-natural.
Is the 10% target for semi-natural habitat additional to the 10% for trees?
Yes, they are two separate actions. We are considering where broadleaf woodland could contribute to both actions at the same time. We propose that newly planted trees or conifers will not contribute to the habitat action, as their contribution to overall ecosystem resilience is limited, but we will need to consider when newly planted trees mature to the point that they can be considered habitat.
What does appropriate management mean?
Appropriate management might involve a number of things, from the right grazing levels, dealing with invasive species, or cutting back encroaching bracken for example.
We know that identifying habitats and the right management will be a challenge for a lot of people. We propose a habitat review for every farm as part of the sustainability review to outline the priority habitats and suitable management. We will make sure there is support available for farmers who want more advice and guidance on habitats.
I couldn’t qualify for previous schemes as I don’t have any semi-natural habitats. Will I be able to join the SFS?
Yes. Valuable new habitat areas can be created on any farm. Fallow margins or flower rich margins can be created around arable fields, new wetland features can be created, or pastures can be allowed to revert to flower rich meadows with the right management. New habitat features like these can be even more valuable where they are located to connect areas of existing habitat to allow wildlife to move around the landscape.
To meet the target for “30% of land to be protected for nature by 2030” does this mean you will be asking us to put another 10% on top of the 20% for trees and habitats?
No, this is not our intention.
Will hedgerows count towards my semi-natural habitat target?
Yes, but we will need to consider minimum dimensions size for a hedge to count. We have included optional 3m wide hedgerows under biosecurity actions.
Will I be able to trade woodland and habitat areas with my neighbour?
The scheme actions have been designed to support the active management and creation of woodland and other habitats. Where individual farmers have more than 10% tree cover or habitat, it would be down to individual choice. These areas can be entered into optional actions to generate further payments and would be an additional benefit to the farmers carbon accounting.
Can permanent leys which don't need to be ploughed and reseeded be equally rewarded for their species diversity? Or reward them for setting seed and flowering which is why the herbal leys are rewarded?
An individual field with high diversity may well be eligible for the action without needing further management.
Conventional horticulture is one of the most damaging practices to soils, how will this be aligned with the sustainability aims of the scheme?
We will need to bring together best practice from the horticulture sector and develop from there. It will be important to integrate other elements of the scheme such as soil testing, and targeted nutrient and pesticide management will be important.
Will new horticulture enterprises that are not on a larger livestock farm be supported? The 3ha will exclude a lot of horticulture enterprises which can be commercially successful with less than 1 ha. Why not have the same eligibility as the recent horticulture grants based on evidence of running a commercial business, or based on hours worked as is allowed for Farming Connect?
We do recognise the 3ha might be a barrier. There will be an opportunity to collaborate, but we do need to find a balance in the eligibility criteria. We shall be analysing the co-design feedback for any ideas provided.
Farmers continue to warn government that we will face food shortages, so why are government actively encouraging farmers to reduce food production?
The scheme proposals include several actions to benefit food productivity through benchmarking, and improvements to biosecurity, soil management and livestock health. These actions will help farmers reduce costs and losses, while continuing to produce food.
However, we have to recognise that climate change is going to cause the biggest disruption to food production, and finding ways to integrate habitats and trees into the farm will help reduce the impacts of these risks over the longer term.
How do Intensive Livestock Units fit into the SFS, or will they be penalised?
The scheme is being designed to support the sustainable production of food – in the short term and the long term – through actions such as improved livestock health and soil management. If we do not invest in these actions now, we will have much bigger challenges in producing food in the future.
We shall be analysing the co-design feedback to establish whether or not we are creating barriers to certain sectors. An intensive farm business should consider what impact it is having on the air, water, soils and nature on and around their farm as those impacts could be having a negative impact on other people's health and livelihood elsewhere.
Our intention is to design a scheme that all farms can participate in, but entry into the scheme will be voluntary, so there will be no penalties if you choose not to enter.
Should sustainable food production be an outcome within the scheme?
Sustainable Food Production is an objective within Sustainable Land Management and all future schemes will need to contribute to this objective.
Will there be flexibility for tenant farmers who will not be able to undertake the actions listed in the SFS such as tree planting?
We have convened a specific working group to ensure these scheme proposals work for tenants. We know there are many aspects of tenancies that must be considered in relation the scheme proposals, for example in relation to tree planting.
Five-year contracts won’t work with my tenancy, will there be flexibility?
Through our tenancy working group we are exploring what flexibility we will need to make sure the scheme works for tenant farmers.
Are Farming Connect going to be able to support this scheme?
Farming Connect will be redesigned to support the scheme. Our intention is that farmers who feel able to undertake the actions without support will be able to do so, but FC will be there for those farmers who need extra support on certain aspects.
If a farmer wants to take advice from a different consultant at their own cost, that is the farmers choice.
Can Farming Connect deliver everything in the SFS proposals? Why isn’t any other service provider considered?
FC is the brand rather than the provider. There will be a new contract in place procured to deliver scheme requirements, so different providers can compete.
Will farmers have to use Farming Connect if they feel confident to navigate the scheme by themselves?
No. We recognise that some farmers will need little or no support and will be able to undertake actions by themselves, but support will be provided for those who need it.
Have you thought about whether the laboratories have enough capacity to do soil testing, or if the vets have the capacity for the animal health actions?
Yes. Capacity will be a challenge, and we’re working with all the relevant partners to work out the most efficient ways of delivering these actions.
Are there enough agents to support all Welsh farmers transferring to the new scheme?
We recognise the potential limitation. This is one of the areas where we need to consider our transition policy carefully to make sure we have enough support.
Can RPW online be synchronised with existing data submission - EID Cymru, BCMS, FAWL, existing carbon calculators, supermarket contract data requirements etc? This is a big opportunity for more efficient data capture.
We agree. We need to make data capture as simple as possible, and we have a huge opportunity here to remove bureaucracy. We must design a system that is useful to the government and the farm business.
Stakeholder consultation and co-design
What is co-design?
Co-design is our programme for involving as many farmers as possible in a constructive conversation about the development of these proposals. Co-design included online surveys, one to one interviews and group workshops. Co-design has now closed and we are currently analysing the results and feedback.
How will the Welsh Government ensure that the correct stakeholders are engaged and consulted?
A stakeholder group involving representatives from the farming unions, other farming and forestry bodies and nature conservation bodies has been in place since shortly after the Brexit referendum and has helped shape and scrutinise our proposals ever since.
The most important stakeholders are Welsh farmers themselves, and we will carefully analyse the feedback obtained through the co-design process.
How do you get invited to sit on the panel for tenant farmers etc?
We are talking to stakeholder organisations such as the farming unions about the working group to explore issues around tenancies. If you are a member of one of these organisations, please speak to them to share your views. If you are not a member, please feed your thoughts through to us via co-design.
Is there a list publicly available of all stakeholders that have been consulted up to now?
There is no single list, as different individuals and organisations take part in different conversations over the short or long term. For the formal Brexit and our land, Sustainable Farming and our Land, and the Agriculture (Wales) White Paper consultations, we publish a Summary or Responses which includes a list of all organisations who have responded.
Pilots and trials
How soon do you plan on implementing pilot schemes? How will you select the farmers to participate, and what will be the incentive to participate?
There are administrative processes we will need to test, especially in relation to the sustainability review including habitat reviews and carbon audits. We plan to progress these in 2023, but details are still being worked out.
If a farmer is in breach of one regulation or part of the scheme, but compliant with everything else – will they still receive payment, or face a large penalty across payments?
We will always need to ensure we have robust processes in place to protect public funds, but we intend to develop a penalty system that is proportionate. For a failure to deliver the Scheme actions as laid out in the contract; we will give farmers advice and guidance on how to correct minor problems and allow them time to put right any actions following an inspection.
Maintaining compliance with the legislative framework will form part of the Scheme Rules. Non-compliance will be deemed a breach and we reserve the right to issue a proportionate penalty. We will be developing a transition plan for how we move from the current model of cross compliance and BPS penalties to a new model which takes a more simplified and supportive approach to penalties.
Should farmers concentrate on meeting the costs of the SFS, or meeting the costs of the new Water Resources regulations (aka the NVZ Regulations)?
The SFS will be a funded scheme with revenue and capital payments. This payment will give farmers a fair and stable income for the work they do alongside the sustainable production of food, so this shouldn’t be seen as a choice to meet the requirements of the scheme, or the regulations.
There are several actions in the SFS covering benchmarking, soil management and biosecurity which are designed to help improve farmers’ productivity, cut costs and improve the sustainability of the farm business.
Why are there no Universal Actions linked to management of Public Rights of Way?
Public Rights of Way are covered by existing regulations. The Scheme will not fund farmers to comply with regulations and will only fund activities above existing regulation. We have proposed Optional Actions to enhance public access to the farmed environment.
How long will SFS contracts last, given that some actions like woodland management need up to 50 year plans and management schemes?
We propose SFS contracts will last for five years, but will then be reviewed and renewed on a rolling five year programme which will accommodate longer term land management objectives, business changes, and other external changes that farms may need to respond to.
We recognise that some flexibility will be needed for tenant farmers where five year contracts may not be suitable.
Why will the new scheme contracts follow financial years rather than calendar years?
We are currently considering moving the scheme payments to align with financial years.
Will there be an independent appeals panel process for contracts, payments, penalties etc?
There will be an appeals process in place ready for the start of the scheme, but no decisions have been made on how this will operate.
Payments and budgets
Why are there no payment rates included?
The actions are not yet complete, so it is not possible to complete the payment modelling. We wanted to explore the details with farmers through co-design. Further details on the actions and associated payments will be available in the consultation on the final scheme design in 2023.
Will payment rates be capped at income foregone and costs incurred?
Payments will incentivise and reward the farmer for the actions they undertake to deliver positive social, environmental, and economic outcomes. Payment rates will consider factors beyond a cost incurred and income foregone model, recognising the social value provided by the outcomes being delivered.
Will Capital Works be included in the SFS?
Yes, but which individuals works will be included is yet to be decided.
Welsh farmers currently adhere to some of the highest production standards in the world, which comes at a cost. How will WG ensure that the farmer will receive adequate return on investment for its products?
We will share data with farmers in a way which will allow them to prove how sustainable they are and to promote the Welsh Brand more effectively. We are supportive of using data in this way to help farmers achieve premium prices for sustainable Welsh produce.
Will larger farms be able to claim Capital Works similar the farm business grants? There was previously a business turnover cut-off for the grants in Wales but not in England.
Yes, we will integrate some of the existing schemes into the Sustainable Farming Scheme. We are not currently considering any cut-offs for larger businesses.
Will Future Capital Works grants be as bureaucratic as current schemes?
We have not yet designed the financial processes to be used within the scheme. We need to evaluate how current and previous scheme have operated and produce a scheme that is as efficient and streamlined as possible, but we will always need to ensure we have robust processes in place to protect public funds.
What certainty does the Welsh Government have over the long term budget, and are you confident that all of the objectives and actions can be achieved at the scale needed? Is there an argument to increase the budget to better reflect the climate and nature crisis and what you're asking farmers to achieve within an increasingly challenging trading environment?
We continue to push the UK Government to commit to the promises made during the Brexit referendum that Wales would not be a penny worse off, but currently we do not have long term budget commitments from UK Government.
We also continue to explore if there are additional funds that can be leveraged from other sectors, but it is too soon to say if this will be feasible.
There is an opportunity for the sector to make a significant contribution to the climate and nature emergencies. Budgets are competitive, so it is important that we can tie scheme actions to tackling the climate and nature emergencies, and that we have the evidence in place to demonstrate benefit to the people of Wales so that we can justify future budgets.
Will annual payment rates fluctuate with rising costs?
No decision has been made but we will need to review payments regularly as part of the evaluation of the scheme to reflect any impacts.
What funding will be available in the gap year between Glastir finishing and joining the scheme in 2025?
We are still developing our proposals for 2024 and a decision will be taken by the Minister later this year.
Will Welsh Government be redefining ‘Active Farmer’ in terms of eligibility for the new scheme?
It is not our intention to redefine ‘Active Farmer’, but we have proposed a number of eligibility criteria that an individual would have to meet in order to join the scheme and receive payments. The proposed criteria are;
- you must be a farmer undertaking agricultural activities
- you must be able to actively perform, at least the applicable Universal Actions throughout the duration of the contract
- the agricultural land must be in Wales
- you must farm a minimum of 3 hectares of eligible agricultural land.
Different eligibility criteria may need to be considered for collaborative projects, where additional participants may need to be involved as well as farmers.
How will the active farmer requirement be enforced? Payments often go to absent landowners outside Wales such as financial institutions buying Welsh farmland for tree planting. This must be prevented.
We have proposed a set of eligibility criteria, which farmers would need to reconfirm periodically throughout their contract. If an individual or a business cannot satisfy these criteria, they would not be eligible to receive scheme payments.
What about sustainable land management undertaken by non-farmers, e.g., small woodland owners.
There is a range of other support available through our rural partners but this is a scheme for farmers and those who undertake agricultural activities.
We are a group of interested farmers. Can we apply to act as a pilot group for the Collaborative option?
We are still developing out approach to the collaborative layer but we have a transition schemes which will inform our approach. We are currently developing these schemes with our stakeholders and details will be announced shortly.
Will the scheme interact with the forthcoming Community Food Strategy and the commitment to increase the amount of locally produced food entering into supply chains for schools to help with the commitment on Universal Free School Meals?
We would encourage this form of collaboration, to work with local supply and downstream supply chains, so we would be grateful to hear ideas about that through co-design.
The scheme does include actions to promote diversified food production which may play into that market, for example through expanding horticultural production and adding value through the processing of livestock products.
Will there be opportunities for farmers who want to work collaboratively if they are not signed up to the Sustainable Farming Scheme?
Dependant on the nature of the collaboration farmers who are not part of the SFS should be able to participate.
How can the SFS proposals contribute to reducing flood risk?
Several of the proposed actions will help hold more water back in the landscape to reduce the risk of flooding. Restoring peatlands and other habitats, tree planting, pond creation and improving soil management across productive farmland will all help intercept water and slow the flow.
There may be potential for groups of farmers to work together as part of the collaborative layer in areas at higher risk of flooding.
Could collaborative projects where farmers work with organisations such as public services be supported through this new scheme? e.g. wildfire risk management being led and developed with local fire services.
Yes, we would want to support these types of initiatives. We want to work with farmers on a range of activities that require coordinated action across larger areas than individual farms, and we recognise that partnership or multi sector approach can bring additional benefit.
Will collaborative project be farmer led, and how will this be paid accordingly? Is there opportunity for projects that are collaborative to be driven by a 3rd party e.g. public services - fire service/health boards etc?
We want farmers to be at the forefront of planning and decision making within collaborative projects, but we recognise that additional partners may be needed to facilitate and support farmer groups.
We would like to gather views on this and what eligibility criteria we would need to enable other collaborative partners. The transition schemes will help inform our thinking.