The Welsh Government Rural Affairs Minister has published two co-design reports to the outline proposals of the Sustainable Farming Scheme – part of the recently passed agriculture bill.

The reports include views from farmers and other stakeholders, along with the Welsh Government’s response.

The next stage in the process will be the consultation on the Sustainable Farming Scheme which is due to take place later this year.

In a move that echoes events in Scotland, decisions on the final design of the scheme will not be made until after this consultation has concluded and the responses analysed.

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Rural Affairs Minister Lesley Griffiths said: “Last summer I published outline proposals for the Sustainable Farming Scheme which were a basis for a period of co-design with farmers and stakeholders, and I’m very grateful for their contribution. The proposals were high-level so farmers could contribute their vast experience and ideas.

“The SFS will be our main mechanism to support farmers to lower their carbon footprint and deliver for nature whilst, at the same time, continuing to produce food sustainably through resilient agricultural businesses. It also recognises the key role farmers play as stewards of our Welsh language, heritage and culture.

“I’m pleased to publish today the co-design reports and the government’s response to these which outlines thoughts on the way ahead taking on board the feedback. All of this will now feed into the consultation to take place later this year.

“We have never before been able to utilise farmers input in this way, when designing a scheme, and I look forward to further discussing the proposals with farmers at the Royal Welsh and other shows this summer.

“The feedback and co-operation to date will help us all to deliver an ambitious and accessible scheme for active farmers.”

A range of considerations in the Welsh Government’s response to the co-design include a feedback suggested farmers needed time to understand and implement changes. A phased approach could be considered, which could mean rolling out the Universal Actions when the scheme begins in 2025, with Optional and Collaborative Actions in the following years.

It was proposed a Habitat Baseline Review would be needed before joining the scheme. Consideration will be made on how to make this scalable for the Universal Layer by using information already held, to remotely identify habitats on the farm through the familiar process of RPW online.

Opportunities will be explored to better recognise good management of existing habitats and woodland above the proposed minimum requirement.

Based on feedback, further detail has been provided on the scenarios where tree planting is not possible. Changes are being explored so the planting action is not 10 per cent of the entire holding, but 10 per cent of the remaining area once unsuitable areas have been identified. The 10 per cent tree cover would include existing tree cover.

The final consultation on the scheme is due to be published later this year, with the final scheme announced in 2024 for implementation in 2025.

The responses mark the next stage of policy development in Wales.

The responses mark the next stage of policy development in Wales.