A NEW report detailing a strategy for sustainable woodland expansion in Wales has been launched on-farm by NFU Cymru.
The Growing Together: A strategy for sustainably increasing tree cover in Wales document was launched by NFU Cymru President John Davies on Thursday, September 16.
Against the background of ambitious targets to increase tree cover in Wales to help mitigate and adapt to the challenges presented by climate change, NFU Cymru’s new strategy paper identifies the barriers and opportunities that exist to deliver on these objectives while safeguarding thriving rural communities and ensuring the continued production of high quality, affordable food in Wales.
The Minister for Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths, also attended the launch and planted an oak tree at John Davies’ Pentre farm in Merthyr Cynog, near Brecon.
The #GrowingTogether campaign promotes an ethos to future tree planting in Wales that would advocate more trees integrated into farming systems – rather than replacing them – and in the coming months will see NFU Cymru inviting politicians and decision-makers to visit a local farm to plant a tree.
These visits will also showcase the environmental and climate change actions being taken on farms alongside food production, and Members of Senedd will be encouraged to pledge their support for the NFU Cymru Growing Together tree strategy.
The trees for the #GrowingTogether initiative have been kindly supplied by Coed Cadw – The Woodland Trust in Wales.
NFU Cymru President John Davies said: “Climate change is, without doubt, the greatest environmental challenge facing the world and expanding tree cover is widely advocated as one method of addressing the climate emergency.
“As custodians of the Welsh countryside whose farms are home to a quarter of trees in Wales – not to mention carbon stored in hedgerows, grasslands, soils and peatland – our industry is already leading on carbon sequestration and is very much part of the climate change solution.
“As farmers, we are strongly resistant to the planting of trees on our best land and the loss of farms for complete afforestation is highly emotive.
“With the right incentives, however, many farmers are enthusiastic about increasing tree cover at an appropriate scale on what they would identify as less productive areas of the farm.
“With this in mind, we are clear that future schemes should reward farmers to plant hedges, shelterbelts, gullies and field corners; allow farmers to establish woodland at field scale on land they identify as of low agricultural and habitat value and provide an economic return to farmers for the management of existing hedgerows and woodland.”
Within the report, NFU Cymru sets out a number of recommendations including:
· A decision-making framework to guide planting decisions so that the long-term economic, environmental, social and cultural impacts can be properly assessed.
· Ensuring that future schemes are properly resourced, simple to apply for and that they reward farmers for existing and new tree and hedgerow cover on Welsh farms.
· Support for further developing the supply of home-grown saplings in Wales.
· Tenancy reform to allow tenants to benefit from tree planting at an appropriate scale alongside safeguards for tenants and commoners so they are not removed from the land.
NFU Cymru’s Rural Affairs Board Chairman, Hedd Pugh, said: “Farmers in Wales are working towards the industry’s goal of achieving net-zero UK agriculture by 2040.
“This will require a focus on improving farming’s productive efficiency and enhancing land use to capture more carbon. Our Growing Together strategy makes clear that targeted tree planting that complements productive agriculture has a key role to play in this battle.
“NFU Cymru hopes that Members of the Senedd across Wales will be keen to sign up to visit members’ farms in the coming weeks, sign up to our #GrowingTogether pledge and support our vision.
“The union is supportive of measures that facilitate and reward farmers for existing and additional woodland planting and wider carbon stores on-farm.
“We also need to see the development of a mechanism of safeguards that protect our rural communities and agricultural productive capacity for the future.”
Rural Affairs Minister, Lesley Griffiths said: “As a government, we are absolutely committed to tackling the climate emergency we face today so we can protect future generations.
“It is clear Wales needs a step-change to increase woodland creation and farmers have a crucial role to play in these efforts.
“We want to do this by working with the industry in a way which safeguards the viability of our agricultural businesses.
“Planting trees will also offer opportunities to create new sources of income and green jobs in our rural communities.
“We will now review and consider the detail of NFU Cymru’s strategy.”