THE Welsh Government’s farming subsidy overhaul could destroy Wales’s rural way of life to serve “the dead hand of climate change fanaticism”, an ex-Tory minister has warned.

David Jones, a former Welsh secretary from the coalition era, warned the Labour-run Cardiff Bay administration not to adopt its proposed changes which would require more land to be set aside for environmental schemes.

Under the Sustainable Farming Scheme (SFS), Welsh farmers would have to set aside 10 per cent of their land for trees, and a further 10 per cent for wildlife habitat.

Farming leaders say the scheme could result in 5,500 job losses.

Concerns about its impact, alongside measures to control TB and regulations aimed at preventing nitrates from seeping into rivers, have led farmers to mobilise in protest.

About 3,000 people from across Wales demonstrated outside the Senedd on Wednesday to voice their opposition to the SFS.


A series of protests have already taken place across Wales but the event in Cardiff Bay was the largest, and saw speeches from farmers and Senedd politicians from the Welsh Conservatives and Plaid Cymru, as well as from former international rugby union referee Nigel Owens.

Clwyd West MP Mr Jones raised the agricultural subsidy scheme in a Commons debate on Welsh affairs, held ahead of St David’s Day on March 1.

The former minister said: “There is no doubt that climate change is a reality which does need to be addressed, and indeed is being addressed very effectively by the Westminster Government, however, when deciding whether the Welsh Government’s proposals are sensible or proportionate, one should take into account the fact that Welsh greenhouse gas emissions are already very low indeed.”

He claimed the Welsh Government had “deliberately chosen to penalise Welsh agriculture, to damage Welsh farming incomes, and to decimate the ranks of those who are employed in the rural economy” to reduce carbon emissions by an amount which “will in global terms be entirely insignificant”.

Intervening, shadow Welsh secretary Jo Stevens said: “Can I suggest, very respectfully, that rather than wind up the rhetoric, that he encourages his constituents to respond to the consultation? There is still a whole week to go.”

Mr Jones replied: “My constituents, I can assure her, have responded to the consultation, both on paper and physically, because several of them were in Cardiff yesterday objecting to this ludicrous proposal.”

He claimed the SFS could lead to farmers being “forced off their land”, adding: “Welsh culture will be undermined, the Welsh language will be weakened and it will be another nail in the coffin of the Welsh rural way of life. But that, it would appear, is entirely acceptable to the Welsh Government provided it results in a pitifully small reduction in emissions.”

Mr Jones said the Welsh Government “should recognise that they are the administration for a relatively small, lightly populated part of the United Kingdom and that they should be serving its specific needs and addressing its priorities in a proportionate manner”.

He added: “Wales needs better healthcare, better schools, better roads, a better economy, a better quality of life, and those needs are not well served by the dead hand of climate change fanaticism.”

Labour MP Tonia Antoniazzi (Gower) also urged farmers to take part in the Welsh Government consultation, telling the Commons: “It is a testing time as well in agricultural communities across Europe, not just in Wales. This is not a singular particular issue.

“We have to work together, cross-party and with our farming communities, and encourage all constituents who want to make their voice heard to respond to the consultation with Welsh Government before it closes on March 7.”

Welsh Secretary David TC Davies used his speech to criticise Labour policies, saying: “What I certainly would not do is to tell farmers that they have to put aside 20 per cent of their land for planting trees and other wildlife schemes dreamed up by people who do not know what the countryside is all about.”