Large-scale afforestation will decimate rural communities, warns agricultural union

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Llwybr Ceffyl / bridleway, Cwrt y Cadno by Alan Richards is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

The National Farmers Union of Wales has warned that rural Wales’ farming communities could be ‘wiped out’ if widespread reforestation plans continue.

The warning comes as the government plans on a large scale to plant millions of trees across the country to create a new national forest that stretches from north to south Wales.

However, with a number of large Welsh farms being sold to investment companies planning to use the land to offset carbon emissions, local communities are increasingly concerned.

The Frongoch Farm in the Carmarthenshire village of Cwrt-y-Cadno was sold earlier this year to Foresight Group, a multibillion-pound private equity firm based in The Shard.

A group of residents of Cwrt-y-Cadno, led by John Llewellyn, told Sky News they feared the afforestation was largely coniferous and could negatively impact the landscape and quality of the ground.

Mr Llewellyn said: “This area is threatened by a slow black cover of fir trees. Our concern is that an afforestation proposal has been accepted and that a foreign company, with a non-native advisor and agent, is coming to plant trees that we think are the wrong trees, in the wrong place for the wrong reason. “

The Frongoch farm was sold by farmer John Thomas whose family worked and lived there for almost 70 years, and when he retired three years ago, he hoped the new owners would protect it for the future generations of farmers.

Last year, however, it was resold at auction, exceeding the guide price to The Foresight Group, which owns three other large Welsh farms.

Monoculture

John Davies, President of NFU Cymru, said: “There is a lot of concern because family farms are the backbone of our rural communities in Wales and if you see that happening it is removing these families from. those areas, and that removes those job opportunities for 30, 40 years.

“What we want to see is the integrated forestry approach to agriculture here. This is not a good trees, bad cows option, it is about fully integrating our approach to wood in our agriculture in the future.

“If you see a monoculture approach to this and widespread reforestation, that’s a fundamental change and it’s not what we’re looking for in Wales. It’s really the decimation of this community, isn’t it?

In December, Barmouth farmer Cllr Gethin Glyn Williams called on the Welsh government to change guidelines for farm finance programs and ensure taxpayer public money does not leave Wales as huge companies are trying to offset their carbon footprint.

His motion, which was unanimously supported by his fellow councilors, followed similar calls from farmers’ unions, fearing that family farms were being torn off at an “alarming rate”, to the detriment of language and culture. Welsh culture.

He said: “Over the centuries the lands and resources of Wales have been used to extract all kinds of products for the benefit of others.

“The last ‘commodity’ seized in our landscape is the carbon potential, as investment companies from outside Wales buy farms, Glastir Woodland Creation (GWC) provides grants and uses the land for afforestation to offset their carbon emissions.

Consultations

The Welsh government has said it will launch a consultation on its national forest plan after launching plans last year to create a national forest for Wales, designed to increase the number of trees planted each year in order to improve air quality and reduce greenhouse gases.

Deputy Climate Change Minister Lee Waters said, “We need to plant 86 million trees by the end of this decade if we are to achieve ‘net zero’ carbon emissions by 2050.

“Well managed, it also offers a huge opportunity for the rural economy to create green jobs and skills in harvesting timber for high-value goods.

“We want to prevent outside interests buying land and we want to work with Welsh farmers and landowners to make this happen.”

The Foresight Group has confirmed that it intends to use the land for afforestation with plans to plant thousands of trees in the valley and is seeking grants from the Welsh government, as part of the Glastir program , but added that he was targeting less fertile land for afforestation projects.

In a statement, Foresight said, “We will be planting a mixed species mix in Frongoch comprising over 25% non-commercial hardwood. Foresight never plants trees on land that can support the growth of productive and cash food crops.

“A key part of our approach to afforestation is always to consult and work with local communities before any planting begins. “

About Keneth T. Graves

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