The Nature Friendly Farming Network (NFFN) are urging careful implementation of Government plans for woodland expansion or threaten long-term biodiversity, farming businesses and wildlife across Wales.

Lee Waters MS, Deputy Minister for Climate Change, outlined in July a target of 43,000ha of woodland to be planted by 2030 and 180,000ha by 2050 - equivalent to planting 5,000ha per year.

In the past year alone, only 290ha were planted with annual woodland creation not exceeding 2,000ha since 1975.

NFFN fears this ambitious tree planting target could drive a blanket tree planting approach – and evidence is showing this is already the case. Around a dozen farms have been sold recently in mid Wales by companies and private investors outside Wales.

With the Welsh Government expecting to launch its Sustainable Farming Scheme, farming in Wales is at a crossroads. The NFFN said it is supportive of the Government’s high-level of ambition surrounding future farming policies but urge a lack of clarity on current agri-environmental contracts and the level of support available before the launch of the Sustainable Farming Scheme.

Rhys Evans, NFFN’s Sustainable Farming Lead for Wales, said: “Trees are important in our fight to tacke the nature and climate crises, but they’re only part of the solution in order to tackle the nature and climate crises. Equal consideration should be given to other carbon rich agricultural habitats such as hedgerows, heathlands, peatlands, species rich grasslands, hay meadows and multispecies leys”

Tony Davies, a fifth-generation tenant farmer on a mountain farm in the Elan Valley said: “Farmers can help tackle climate change by extending existing woodlands, planting trees on steep land and awkward corners of fields, or by implementing silvopasture and agroforestry systems.

“We have hay meadows, healthland and peatland on our farm which provides a home for lots of birds, mammals and pollinators. Large scale tree planting would threaten all of this.”