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Agricultural land sell-off in Wales is destroying farming, shooting and conservation

Farming land is being sold off in Wales to international companies who plan to plant trees and rewild

Welsh farmland

Welsh farmland is being sold off

The Welsh Government is under fire from shooting organisations and farming groups by allowing agricultural land sell off to large companies, many with London bases, who will use it for tree planting and rewilding in return for carbon credits.

The Countryside Alliance says the Welsh Government is allowing rewilding and the planting of thousands of trees on a huge scale. Rachel Evans of Countryside Alliance Wales says: “By losing this land, we risk food security. We are also reducing the amount of shooting in Wales. It’s inevitable and it’s ironic that the Welsh Government does not want to admit to the value of shooting in terms of conservation, land management, and carbon sequestration.”

Speaking directly to Shooting UK she said: “It is completely bizarre that the First Minister for Wales has made a statement that Welsh Government support the game meat sector yet in the same breath said that they do not support shooting as a “leisure” activity. This clearly demonstrates a disconnect between Labour and the countryside.”

Carmenthenshire farmer Eddie Field shoots and says three neighbouring farms have been sold in the past year for rewilding, meaning nearly 500 acres will now be planted with trees. He also points out that once land has been planted with trees it cannot be used for anything else for generations, meaning that farms are dying.

Shooting Times contributor Charles Owen Grisedale said: “Rewilding means no people on the land . Another destruction of rural communities.”

Huge issue in rural Wales

Shooting UK spoke to Shooting Times contributor Gethin Jones, who commented: “The sale of land in Wales to investment companies to plant trees so they can generate and trade in carbon credits is a huge issue in rural Wales right now. Forestry in Wales has been badly planned since the Second World War – basically meaning that the wrong trees (non-native conifers) have been planted in all the wrong places. The planting of non-native trees in Wales has been disastrous for conservation, by providing safe havens for predators such as foxes and corvids, right next to prime nesting areas for endangered species including curlew. It is often the case that the new landowners, whether the land is used for forestry or rewilding, prohibit traditional pest control on their properties which is essential for the conservation of wildlife, game and livestock.

“Economically, this land grab is pricing small family farms, the traditional Welsh model of farming, out of the market as they cannot compete with hugely inflated prices for land. Finally there is a hugely significant cultural hit as the areas affected most by the buy-up of rural land in remote areas are the heartland of the Welsh language. The result is more rural depopulation and further losses to the Welsh language and culture.”

The Rt Hon Stephen Crabb MP, Chairman of the Welsh Affairs Committee, has criticised this policy, saying: “We heard that a significant amount of farming land is being lost to carbon offset projects which is being sold at such a high price to wealthy companies that farmers, many of whom are already struggling financially, cannot compete. …There must be adequate safeguards in place to avoid greenwashing by companies relying on offsets to avoid difficult decisions to tackle emissions at source.”

Shop local?

Shooting UK contacted Lesley Griffiths, MS Minister for Rural Affairs and North Wales, and Trefnydd with a number of questions, including the management of the food supply in Wales if there is less agricultural land to grow and manage stock, as now we are all being encouraged to shop, ‘eat local’ and reduce our food miles. At the time of writing we have had no response.