Sheep farmers ‘excluded’ from Welsh farming roundtable

The National Sheep Association said the Welsh Government has not responded to its requests to join the new Farming Roundtable.

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The NSA has revealed it made several requests to join the Welsh Government’s industry roundtable, but has received no response.

The roundtable is set to discuss the Sustainable Farming Scheme.

Last month it was announced that the SFS would be delayed until 2026, after the initial proposals prompted a backlash from Welsh farmers.

NSA chief executive Phil Stocker says: “It is extremely disappointing that the Welsh Government has chosen to exclude NSA, the only organisation that solely represents the largest agricultural sector (sheep farming) in Wales, from its Roundtable discussions.”

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“Lack of appetite” to future-proof sheep sector

Collectively, the Welsh beef and sheep sectors support more than 223,000 jobs. Wales’ biggest employer – the food and drink supply chain – is worth over £6 billion to the Welsh economy. 

The sheep sector is also by far the most accessible route into agriculture for new entrants, Mr Stocker believes. 

READ MORE: Warning over Welsh govt scheme as “shocking” impact predicted

READ MORE: Industry responds to delay of controversial Welsh Sustainable Farming Scheme

The Welsh government’s refusal to engage with NSA “indicates a severe lack of appetite” to future-proof the sheep sector in Wales, he added.

NSA said it is in a unique position – as it’s been involved in policy and future farming scheme development across the UK. 

To date, the organisation said it has done its best to support Welsh Government in its work.

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Not at all confident

Mr Stocker said he is “highly concerned” that there has been “zero” engagement since the new farming minister came into post.

“I am not at all confident that Welsh Government is making use of farmers experiences from scheme development in other nations. 

“There is still no facilitation for tenants, new entrants, share and contract farming agreements, commons, cross border farms or graziers.”

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The NSA said it welcomes conversations, pilots, and development of the SFS in Wales – given the problems the proposals have created.

Whilst there are “fundamental elements” that risk making the scheme “unworkable”, NSA believes there are some valuable aspects to the current scheme proposals. 

Mr Stocker concluded: “Given the importance of sheep farming in Wales I will still say it’s not too late and would welcome engagement from Welsh Government, which sadly so far has been lacking.”

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