New report calls for a balance between farming and nature
Fersiwn Gymraeg ar gael yma.

New report into Farming, the environment and the Welsh uplands has shown the urgent need to balance farming and food production with the needs of nature and people.

The report brings together evidence on farming policies in the uplands and its impact on the environment, and considers agricultural, environment and economic trends. The report also highlights agriculture’s dependence on the subsidies that are currently under threat because of Brexit. As it stands, more than 80% of farming income in Wales originates from EU funding and Welsh farmers receive around £300 million of taxpayers’ money a year.

The report shows that current support isn’t keeping farm businesses viable and an increasing number of farmers are having to find other work, with farming now becoming a part-time source of income for many.

While the report indicates that many farmers struggle to make a living from food production alone, the environment, which they help manage, is estimated as being worth about £9 billion per annum. It also argues that a restored environment would be worth considerably more – a statement based on the fact that overall, the environment and associated natural resources are currently in poor quality.

The State of Birds in Wales 2018 report shows that farmland birds are among Wales’ most vulnerable and are suffering ongoing declines. This includes many upland species such as curlews, golden plovers, black grouse, red grouse and ring ouzel.  

Despite current concerns, the Welsh uplands have a great deal of potential for future environmental provisions, nature conservation activities and agricultural production, if grazing and management systems appropriate to local conditions are implemented. 

We commissioned the report, written by independent consultant Jane Ricketts Hein of Cynidr Consulting, to support the development of a post-Brexit Land Management Bill for Wales to replace the current Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

According to the report, the system of support should encourage farming practices that are appropriate to the sustainable potential of the land. This includes appropriate stocking levels and the restoration and maintenance of habitats for birds and other species. In the past, the CAP paid farmers for the number of animals they kept, which resulted in increases in stock numbers e.g. sheep increased from 5 to 10 million from the early 1960s to the 1980s. Pre-CAP stocking levels may provide an indication of what sustainable agriculture might look like for Wales.

As well as outlining the challenges faced by Welsh farming and the environment, the report highlights that a new system of support is an opportunity to recognise and reward farmers’ and landowners’ wider contributions to the natural, economic and social environments. 

This supports our position that Wales needs a new approach to land management that benefits both farmers and the environment; that public funding is used in ways that helps farmers protect and restore nature and produce high quality food as efficiently as possible.

To read the two-page summary of the report, click here.