Welsh farmers are protesting against new rules ordering them to set aside land for tree planting and wildlife they say will be ‘the death’ of their livelihoods.
Farming industry chiefs have warned of ‘huge unrest’ ahead as a mass rally featured a mock coffin in anger against rewilding reforms by Wales’s Labour government.
About 3,000 people attended the event last night at Carmarthen Showground in Nantyci last night – a week after more than 1,000 demonstrated in Welshpool.
Placards were held high showing slogans such as ‘In memory of Welsh farming’, ‘RIP Welsh farming’ and ‘No farmers, no food’ in response to proposals insisting on new levels of land which must be reserved for trees and for wildlife.
Welsh former international rugby referee Nigel Owens was among the speakers at the Carmarthen event, as concerns were raised about the rewilding plans.
The Welsh government has put forward the Wales Sustainable Farming Scheme it says will reward farmers ‘for responding to the climate and nature emergencies, as well as producing food in a sustainable way’.
The programme, scheduled to come into force next year, has been opposed by the NFU Cymru farmers’ union which fears it could lead to as many as 5,500 job losses.
A recent report suggested every farm in the country taking part could cause a 10.8 per cent cut in livestock numbers and an 11 per cent reduction in labour.
Last night’s meeting passed a motion calling for organisers to enter into direct negotiations with the Welsh government.
Ministers have been working on the new post-Brexit subsidy scheme for farms, with the current proposals stipulating that farms should ensure 10 per cent of land is planted with trees and 10 per cent treated as wildlife habitat to be eligible for cash.
Opponents say this will be unworkable and impose too much extra paperwork.
Farming industry worker Dorian Griffiths, from Carmarthen, said: ‘Without the farmers there would be no food in the supermarkets.
‘People who do not realise they are actually dependent on the farmers for their livelihood. This is a chance we can’t miss.’
NFU Cymru deputy president Abi Reader said: ‘This is such a different model to what’s been there in the past – it’s going to have catastrophic impacts on farming businesses.
‘I was in a meeting last night and somebody said they went home and just cried.’
And Farmers’ Union of Wales president Ian Rickman said: ‘It’s more or less inevitable there will be some form of protest.’
He also told of other concerns over stricter rules on fertiliser spreading and bovine TB, adding: ‘Members feel like they’ve come to the limit, they’ve come to the edge.’
The Welsh government Rural Affairs Minister Lesley Griffiths suggested that ‘some of the proposals will have to be changed’, adding: ‘There’s no point having a consultation if you don’t listen to it.’