Farmers in Pembrokeshire have breathed a sigh of relief at the news that Wales’ new farm subsidy scheme, which will pay farmers to deliver so called ‘public goods’, is on hold for a year.

But new rural affairs minister Huw Irranca-Davies has warned there's no chance it is going to be 'kicked into the long grass'.

Despite four previous consultations on the Sustainable Farming Scheme (SFS), further “meaningful engagement’’ is needed with the farming sector, he reckons.

The SFS was due to be phased in from April 2025 but the Basic Payment Scheme will instead continue.

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The delay has been described as “sensible and pragmatic’’ by NFU Cymru but Wildlife Trusts Wales said it was “bad news for farmers, nature and climate’’.

Mr Irranca-Davies insists the scheme is not being “kicked down the road’’.

“I have said that we will pause and reflect but what we are not going to do is kick this into the long grass.

“That wouldn’t be in anyone’s interest, including the farming community’s, because the worst thing we could do would be to say “let’s long grass this for ever and a day or let’s start again’’.

He referred to the one-year pause as a “preparatory phase’’ to work through some of the “knotty issues’’ including the proposed 10% tree cover requirement for entering the scheme.

The minister pledged to work through these with stakeholders at the Ministerial Roundtable, recently established to review the agricultural support scheme.

The announcement was welcomed by farming unions.

NFU Cymru President Aled Jones said the time must be used to “redouble our efforts to get this scheme right for all farm types, sectors and regions of Wales, for tenants and for common land.’’

Ian Rickman, president of the Farmers’ Union of Wales, said there had been a “real frustration’’ within the industry over recent months, adding: “Scrutiny of the finer details will be crucial as this work progresses over the coming weeks.’’

News of the delay has not been well received by environmental groups.

Wildlife Trusts Wales director Rachel Sharp said: “Delaying measures to help farms adapt to our changing climate now only increases costs tomorrow and so is bad news for farm incomes.’’

She noted that the UK Government’s 2021 Food Security Report found that, “The biggest medium to long term risk to the UK’s domestic production comes from climate change and other environmental pressures like soil degradation, water quality and biodiversity.”

She added that the scheme offers a great opportunity for farmers to be on the front foot to address the changing weather – to plant trees for shelter for livestock, to switch to herb-rich grasses which are less prone to drought, and to store water in ponds on farms.

“It’s clear that the current food system isn’t working for farmers, nature, climate and even consumers."

There was disappointment too from Nature Friendly Farming Network Cymru.

Its manager Rhys Evans said after years of scheme development, “it very much feels like the can is being kicked down the road.’’