Confor calls on Welsh Government and NFU Cymru to work together on tree planting

24 July 2023

Anthony Geddes MICFor, Confor's National Manager for Wales, has called on the Welsh Government and farming unions to collaborate with the forestry sector to evolve and deliver on farm planting targets.

This comes after a statement by the president and deputy president of NFU Cymru that they could not take part in the Welsh Government’s proposed Sustainable Farming Scheme following clarification of the 10% tree cover requirement.

Responding to the announcement, Confor's National Manager for Wales said: “I understand that Welsh farmers feel the proposed changes in the Sustainable Farming Scheme are not deliverable and won’t fit their farms.

“The evidence for change has not been presented to them, but we can also see that the pressures of climate change are being felt in the rural landscape and with the UK having left the EU the Welsh Government needs to bring in a new Scheme for farmers.

“I wouldn’t want the Farming Unions and Welsh Government to end up in some kind of Mexican stand-off’. The forestry sector, through Confor, can help deliver a resolution to this, and we are happy to assist.

“Over recent decades the sector has developed experience in different ways of establishing trees that can complement farming, and which help farmers to diversify whilst making a major contribution to tackling the climate change emergency and contributing to biodiversity.”

Wales has adopted the UK Climate Change Committee recommendation to plant 167,000 hectares of new woodland by 2050 as part of its commitment to mitigate climate change, deliver timber resources to decarbonise Welsh housing, and encourage habitat creation to address the biodiversity emergency.

The 10% target incorporated within the SFS would see 43,000 hectares of new woodland created across the 25,000 Welsh farms by 2030.

Mr Geddes added: “In recent years, tree planting in Wales has started to become a very difficult subject both for farmers and foresters. The development of the new Sustainable Farming Scheme proposals is intensifying this. While tree planting has increased in Wales it is not at the rate needed to meet the targets set by our government.

“The future of tree planting is changing too. Silvopasture, agroforestry, and other planting systems can help boost grazing productivity, animal welfare and improve habitats. Faster growing species can deliver timber and fibre more quickly, creating viable incomes when mixed in with the farm business. The opportunities are countless whilst respecting the need to produce food and support communities.

“As part of the forestry sector’s commitment to addressing the changing needs of the Welsh rural landscape, Confor’s show program for the Royal Welsh Show 2023 is dedicated to the discussion of how to integrate trees into farming systems within Wales.

“Confor stands ready to work directly with Welsh Government and Farming Unions to support managing existing woodlands and creating new woodlands in such a way that it can be supported by all parties.”