Climate change: Greener focus for farm funding popular - poll




  • In Business
  • 2022-09-26 05:47:48Z
  • By BBC
sheep farmers
sheep farmers  

People living in the Welsh countryside support the idea of changing farm subsidy payments to help nature, a survey has suggested.

The WWF Cymru poll found 60% felt only farms working to protect wildlife should receive grants in future.

New legislation putting a greener focus on agricultural funding is set to start its journey through the Senedd this week.

But farming unions have said food security must also be prioritised.

The environment campaign group said the research it commissioned was the first of its kind to comprehensively survey residents of rural Wales on the issue.

Of the 1,000 people polled, 96% agreed that Welsh farmers had an important role to play in protecting nature, while 88% said the same for tackling climate change.

However only a third (34%) thought farms were already doing enough.

£300m public funding

Nearly two-thirds (60%) believed government funding should only be handed out if farmers were "actively working" to protect nature and the climate.

Farms in Wales currently receive a share of more than £300m a year in public funding, based largely on size.

A new Welsh subsidy to replace EU-based payments for agriculture, following Brexit, is set to be introduced from 2025.

A draft plan was published in July, while the details of a new Agriculture Bill, to administer the changes, are expected imminently.

The Welsh government sees farmers as central to its plans for helping tackle both climate change and nature loss, given that more than 80% of Wales' landscape is in their care.

But the proposed shake-up to farming policy is the biggest in a generation, and has prompted debate given the industry's role in rural life and economy.

WWF Cymru said the survey came at a "critical moment" for Wales

'Vital transformation'

"The new Agriculture Bill gives us a once in a generation chance to set Wales on a path to a more sustainable future," said Rhian Brewster, of WWF Cymru.

"We, along with the majority of rural Wales, want farmers rewarded for adopting climate and nature-friendly, regenerative farming practices - this vital transformation can only be achieved by bold changes to agriculture payments."

cows
cows  

While supportive of many aspects, farming unions have said recent disruption to food supplies caused by the pandemic and war in Ukraine should trigger a re-think.

NFU Cymru said the bill must include safeguards for domestic food production alongside commitments on climate change and biodiversity.

The union's president, Aled Jones, said the new bill was arguably as important for Wales as the 1947 Agriculture Act passed by the UK parliament to promote food production after World War Two.

"It'll lay the foundation from which all policies are designed from now on - these are crucial matters," he said.

The Welsh government said the Sustainable Farming Scheme would encourage farmers to act "in harmony" with the environment.

A spokesperson added: "Responding to the climate and nature emergencies is vital for the future of our farming industry, and we are working with the industry to ensure our proposals for the future keep farmers on the land to produce food sustainably and protect our rural communities."

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