Swansea Farmers Protest Over Welsh Government Plans for Farming – with Cardiff Protests set to Follow This Week

Yesterday Welsh Farmers held a tractor convoy and rally from Penllergaer Services round Swansea and eventually finishing at Gower Farmers Market, the latest in a series of well supported protests across Wales (which saw the First Minister jeered and booed in Rhyl earlier this week, as well as protests in Newtown, Carmarthen, Llandeilo and Aberystwyth).

Yesterday’s entirely peaceful and respectful protest is the latest action from the Welsh farming community, who are expressing significant anger and frustration over the Sustainable Farming Scheme (SFS) proposed by the Welsh government, which is set to replace the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) in 2025.

The farmers’ concerns are primarily focused on three key areas:

Land Allocation for Environmental Purposes: The SFS requires that all farms allocate at least 10% of their land to tree planting and an additional 10% to semi-natural habitat. Farmers are concerned about the impact of this requirement on food production and their livelihoods.

Nitrate Vulnerable Zone (NVZ) Regulations: The Welsh government plans to introduce restrictions on storing and spreading manure and slurry as a means to tackle air and water pollution. This regulation is seen as another challenge to farming practices.

Bovine TB Policy: There is dissatisfaction with the government’s approach to managing bovine tuberculosis in wildlife, which impacts farming.

Additionally, farmers are concerned about the potential economic impact of the SFS. There are fears that the scheme could lead to significant job losses (up to 5,500 jobs) and an 11% drop in livestock numbers. The broader ripple effect on the Welsh rural economy, including ancillary industries like feed companies, farm machinery businesses, food processing firms, and tourism, is also a major concern.

A protestor said:

“It’s not hard to understand is it?  No farmers, no food!  What does Mark Drakeford think we can eat if the farms all go out of business?  I don’t know any farmers who think this idea is viable, it’s absolutely crazy – farming is a huge part of Welsh life, and contributes hugely to the Welsh Economy. 

“Welsh Food and Drink exports were worth £797 million in 2022 – and it’s continuing to grow year on year.  Earlier this month, Rural Affairs Minister Lesley Griffiths was praising the sector’s success and announced that potential sales reached £38 million at the BlasCymru/TasteWales 2023 event – a record high – so why would you want to sabotage that?” 

Farm owner and outspoken TV celebrity Jeremy Clarkson described the proposals as plain ‘daft’ on ‘X’.

The NFU Cymru (National Farmers’ Union Cymru) has urged the Welsh government to urgently reconsider the scheme, emphasizing the need for profitability in farming to ensure the sector’s sustainability. The growing discontent among farmers has also been noted by the Countryside Alliance, highlighting a disconnect between the government and rural communities.

Farmers have been encouraged to participate in the Welsh government’s consultation on the SFS, which remains open for feedback until March 7, 2024 – but it’s fair to say that farmers are already making their views known.  Saturday’s protest also attracted significant support from the non-farming community, many of whom said they thought the Government had gone too far with the SFS and other unpopular policies such as the default 20mph speed limit and the planned addition of 30 more Senedd members.

The Farmers and their supporters are set to take the debate to Cardiff and the steps of the Senedd at 12.30pm on Wednesday in a large protest which is set to draw a large number of coaches bringing protestors from across the whole of Wales.

If the local protests yesterday were anything to go by, this will be a very large event.  In the words of the farmers, and the slogans on their tractors, they all feel “Enough is enough”.