THE "relatively modest" proposal to increase tree cover on Welsh farms to 10 per cent is both "necessary and desirable", a leading conservation charity has said.

Under the Sustainable Farming Scheme, which is set to replace farming subsidies after Brexit, farmers will also have to commit to allocating another 10 per cent of their land to wildlife habitats in order to receive public cash.

This has prompted angry protests by farmers in Wales, with Rishi Sunak and Jeremy Clarkson among those to wade into the saga in recent days.

Forestry Journal: Wales' first minister Mark Drakeford has defended the policy Wales' first minister Mark Drakeford has defended the policy

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However, the idea has been broadly supported by foresters, and now Coed Cadw, the Woodland Trust in Wales, has said the proposed scheme is an "appropriate use of public funding".

According to the conservation charity, tree cover on farms in Wales is already at 6–7 per cent, so for many farms, making this up to 10 per cent is a "relatively modest requirement".

"We support the policy to significantly increase tree cover on farms," said Coed Cadw’s Wales director, Natalie Buttriss. "We think that it is necessary and desirable, both for farming and the public. This is clearly a big change for farmers and we think it is appropriate to use public funding through the Sustainable Farming Scheme to support farmers in making this change."

Coed Cadw notes that:

  • farms are not required to plant 10 per cent of their land, only to bring their existing tree and woodland cover up to 10 per cent
  • on average, farms in Wales already have 6–7 per cent tree cover
  • the costs of new planting will be fully met by Welsh Government grants and, for the first time, farms in the Scheme will receive a payment for the area of tree and woodland cover that they maintain
  • farms are not required to take 20 per cent of their land out of production as tree cover and habitat.

Natalie added: "We need a multi-faceted approach to tackling these wider challenges. We firmly believe that the basic minimum tree cover and habitat requirements in this scheme will help farming, the environment and the population of Wales.

Forestry Journal: Jeremy Clarkson called the proposal daft Jeremy Clarkson called the proposal daft (Image: PA)

"We know from working directly with farmers across Wales that many are finding successful ways of working with trees that are good for their farm business and the natural environment as well as the public, whilst complementing quality, sustainable food production. With flexibility and innovation this is all achievable."

On Wednesday, the Prime Minister said the plans were “the opposite of what is needed”.

He told the Commons: “On this side of the House we are supporting farmers with more money to grow more British food, in contrast to the plans that she highlighted which would decimate farming communities in Wales.

“It is the opposite of what is needed. While we will always back our rural communities across the UK, it is Labour that would take them back to square one.”