The Welsh Government is making £227 million available over the next three years to support “the resilience of Wales’ rural economy and our natural environment”, Rural Affairs Minister Lesley Griffiths has announced.
Ms Griffiths says the funding is designed to support the pace and scale of change needed in her 10 years of action on climate change, to enable “a just transition to a stronger, more green and fairer”.
The allocation marks the end of the EU Rural Development Program (RDP), which will end in 2023 but will ensure continuity of support for important actions previously funded under the RDP.
The funding, which will be available to support farmers, foresters, land managers and associated rural sectors, will be spread across six themes:
• Farm-scale land management – sustainable on-farm land management actions to improve natural resources, such as encouraging the cultivation of crops that provide environmental benefit such as protein crops.
• On-farm environmental improvements – including improving fuel, feed and nutrient efficiency, incorporating circular economy approaches and encouraging the use of renewable energy.
• On-farm efficiency and diversification – supporting on-farm efficiency through investments in new technology and equipment and enabling opportunities for agricultural diversification.
• Land management at the landscape scale – providing nature-based solutions at the landscape scale, through a multi-sector collaborative approach.
• Wood and forestry – supporting the Welsh Government’s commitment to create 43,000 hectares of wood by 2030 and supporting the creation of a wood-based industrial strategy.
• Food and agricultural supply chains – creating a strong and vibrant Welsh agri-food industry with a global reputation for excellence with one of the most environmentally and socially responsible supply chains in the world.
The minister said the framework complements the development of the sustainable agriculture agenda, rewarding farmers and land managers for the work they do to meet the challenges of climate and natural emergencies alongside sustainable food production.
The Minister announced that programs, worth a total of £100million, are open now or will be launched in the coming weeks to support these themes with others to come as the work of detailed design continues.
There will also be programs to support the Welsh horticultural sector and investment in new equipment and technology to improve the technical, financial and environmental performance of agricultural businesses.
Under the Support Scheme there are schemes offering grants of between £1,000 and £5,000 to develop plans for creating new woodlands and a woodland restoration support scheme.
Discussions with Plaid Cymru to meet the commitments made under the cooperation agreement are ongoing. This includes working with the farming community to encourage the creation of woodlands on less productive land and through agroforestry and “hedge and edge” approaches, and exploring ways to attract investment to the creation of forest lands that guarantee local ownership and management.
Ms Griffiths said: “Our rural economy plays a crucial role in how we live our lives. It provides us with the quality food we eat, the natural resources we enjoy and supports communities and livelihoods across Wales.
“We know that it continues to face many challenges, including climate change which threatens our land, impacts water and air quality and places additional pressures on biodiversity.
“We want to support the sustainable food production of Welsh farmers and we want our rural communities to have a green and sustainable future. This package is designed to support these goals. A strong rural economy can only benefit our rural communities.
“The significant funding I am announcing will be essential to help our farmers, foresters, land managers and food businesses promote sustainable food production and meet the challenges ahead, supporting the pace and scale of change needed to support rural economy on the way to net zero, nature positive Wales.