THE 'controversial' sustainable farming scheme in Wales has been delayed for a year after countrywide protests.

Welsh Government Ministers have now accepted “changes will be needed” to the scheme and have delayed its roll out for at least a year.

Welsh Rural Affairs Secretary Huw Irranca-Davies insisted the move was “far from a delay”, but the SFS had been due to come in from January 2025, while a transition period will now start in 2026.

Instead, the minister referred to it as the “business end of post the consultation”.

“Since day one of taking up this role, I have been out and about meeting and listening to our farmers, hearing their views, taking on board what they have to say,” said Mr Irranca-Davies.

“They, along with the unions and many others, have not been backward in coming forward with their thoughts and suggestions, I appreciate their candour.

“Farming and the agricultural industry as a whole in Wales is a partnership, and it is clear to me that while we have had some issues recently, we all have a shared goal of ensuring that farming in Wales has a long, successful and vibrant future.”

Under the scheme, Welsh farmers are currently expected to have to set aside 10 per cent of their land for trees and a further 10 per cent for wildlife habitat. This has proven controversial in some circles, with even foresters wary of the mandatory target. 

A consultation for the farming scheme received more than 12,000 responses, with the minister saying a draft analysis shows that “some changes will be needed” to the framework and added “we have always said the scheme would not be introduced until it is ready and I stand by that.”

Rachel Sharp, the director of Wildlife Trusts Wales, objected to the move, claiming it “prolongs the uncertainty” at a time when farmers need to be rewarded for moving to sustainable methods.

“Delaying measures to help farms adapt to our changing climate now only increases costs tomorrow and so is bad news for farm incomes,” said Ms Sharp.

“The scheme offers a great opportunity for farmers to be on the front foot to address the changing weather – to plant trees for shelter for livestock, to switch to herb-rich grasses which are less prone to drought, and to store water in ponds on farms.

“It’s clear that the current food system isn’t working for farmers, nature, climate and even consumers.

“We see nature in rapid decline on some farmland, rivers polluted from agricultural run-off and many farmers struggling to make their businesses viable.”

This article originally appeared in our sister title, the County Times.