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We have a huge opportunity to change the way we manage our land in Wales through a new Sustainable Farming Scheme (SFS). We’re calling for support to help our farmers put sustainable food, healthy habitats and the functioning of our ecosystems first. We can help our farmers, communities and culture to thrive by ensuring Wales is tackling the nature and climate emergencies now, both here and abroad.

Trees, hedges and woodlands are vital to delivering many of the scheme’s desired outcomes. Trees, particularly native species, are naturally vital to the farm business and to the survival and recovery of wildlife. They are a natural resource with vast benefits for farm businesses, reducing dependence on inputs, mitigating extreme weather, helping wildlife recovery and boosting community wellbeing. That’s why we want to see Our Ten Asks for Trees on Farms included in the new scheme.

1. Urgently provide a well-funded universal scheme that helps farmers to reverse declines in habitats, rivers, soils and atmosphere.

  • Protect the farm environment ensuring the sustainability of food production.
  • Reduce pollution and mitigate costs of climate change and severe weather.
  • Improve and increase habitats for wildlife.
  • Support local economies, communities and culture and distinctive landscapes.

2. Confirm regulatory minimum standards for environmental protection.

  • Regulatory compliance is important for fairness, preventing those most dismissive of impacts on others from gaining competitive advantage.
  • Invest urgently in adequate monitoring and enforcement.
  • Public funding must depend on compliance with the law and pay for improvements above the basic regulatory requirements.

3. Protect and improve the hedges, trees, and woodland that already exist

  • Support farmers to identify, protect and manage ancient trees, hedgerows, and woodland, safeguarding our irreplaceable nature-rich heritage for future generations.
  • Support tenants to expand hedges as an alternative to the 10% tree cover threshold.
  • Invest in fencing and the fencing supply chain.
  • Look after tree lines where hedges have grown up into mature trees.
  • Fund professional advice to manage farm woodland, especially to restore ancient woodland.

4. Help farms work towards 10% tree and hedge cover.

Encourage landowners to increase tree cover by:

  • Promoting the many benefits of trees on farms, including boosting pollinators, capturing carbon, increasing productivity and saving money.
  • Facilitating our key areas for action:
    • Map farm woodland and hedges and edges, including scattered trees, tree lines and trees along watercourses.
    • Map areas of semi-natural habitats where trees should not be planted.
    • Think shelter and animal welfare, flooding and soil erosion prevention, pollution reduction. Go large on the hedges, especially the boundaries of the farm. Plant more trees to protect river and stream edges. Establish tree strips to create more productive shaded and sheltered pasture. Extend woodland for wood chip, fencing and timber.
    • Encourage experience and advice sharing, highlighting farmers already using hedges, trees, and woodland to benefit their farm.
    • Provide evidence-based masterclasses on designing trees, hedges and woodland into farming systems and the farm enterprise.

5. Support farms to transform their ‘improvable’ or ‘standard’ hedges into ‘super hedges’.

  • Support tall, dense, and wide ‘super hedges’, protecting the farm and livestock from wind, sun and flooding. These create larger carbon stores, whilst providing flowers and fruit for pollinators and more safe space for wildlife.
  • Start with farm boundary hedgerows, including those along public rights of way. These are more likely to be ancient heritage boundaries and of high value for wildlife, security, and herd separation.

6. Meet the call from the Senedd to support more agroforestry.

  • Improve and protect soils and reduce the impact of extreme weather by establishing scattered trees wherever appropriate. Plan tree strips for new crops and to provide livestock with vital shade and shelter.
  • Invest in hedges and edges and tree belts, especially where they will reduce flooding and pollution, for example across slopes, alongside watercourses and wherever water collects. Positioned around livestock and poultry units, tree belts can intercept water and sediment, excess nutrients or ammonia emissions.

7. Develop an independent farm wildlife benchmark to help farms improve.

8. Fund professional support for cross-farm working for landscape-wide improvement.

  • Work along rivers to create continuous partly wooded riparian protection zones, preventing erosion, improving water quality and restoring wildlife and fish stocks.
  • Increase woodland cover across landscapes, especially where it improves water quality and mitigates flooding.
  • Manage woodland collaboratively, supporting farm-level woodland management, building local timber harvesting and processing capacity and supporting contractors and supply chains.
  • Support multi-owner initiatives such as the Celtic Rainforests Wales Project and reward them as part of National Forest for Wales.

9. Encourage more wood pasture on hill land.

  • Reduce grazing among scattered upland trees, allowing new trees to grow naturally. Use low grazing intensity to reduce fire risk, helping to protect and restore upland peat soils and increase water retention.
  • Support the use of ‘no-fence’ native tree planting and natural regeneration to improve shelter and restore some woodland and scrub cover where there are no species present that depend on treeless landscapes.
  • Support fencing to protect headwater streams and restore eroding gullies.

10. Provide more SFS optional tier actions using trees to deliver more nature positive climate actions.

  • Support on-farm community tree nurseries, collecting seed and providing locally grown trees to plant to avoid the biosecurity risks of importing trees.
  • Identify and map our most important nature-rich old trees on farms to ensure they are recognised and protected as cultural living heritage to pass on to our future generations.
  • Support the removal of damaging and aggressively invasive species such as rhododendron.

We invite the public to join our campaign to ask that the Welsh Government deliver these ten asks within the new Sustainable Farming Scheme.