Welsh TV and radio personality Roy Noble has accused big finance companies that buy land to offset carbon of having “no empathy or real understanding of farming or the landscape”.
In a personal appeal to the Welsh public, the OBE recipient argued that removing agricultural land for tree planting could limit Wales’ ability to be self-sufficient and threaten food security.
He said: “The tragic and horrific events unfolding in Ukraine and the extreme financial strain of the world currently affecting our country should focus the mind and underscore the priorities, one of which is self-sufficiency.
“I think it’s around 60% in Wales at the moment, but experts from the farming community and beyond agree it could be significantly improved with official support. Of course we cannot produce everything, but a larger percentage is a realistic goal.”
Mr Noble, who worked as a teacher before embarking on a career in broadcasting, argued that tree planting has benefits when done in “the right place with the right trees”, stating: “There is no doubt that tree planting will seen and accepted as a way to address the climate emergency and global warming, but “right trees, right place, right impact” is an acceptable mantra in this process, in my opinion.
“Planting on productive, fertile farmland certainly isn’t, and if that’s done, the impact and impact will last for generations.”
Many farming families are rooted in their land, their sacred soil
Pointing to rural communities in the Cothi Valley in Carmarthenshire, where his mother’s ancestors lived for many generations, the Brynaman-born entertainer said: “Many of the farming families in all affected areas of Wales are rooted to their land, their sacred ground to theirs soul and its actual being.
“Many probably go back to the very early farmers. This legacy deserves recognition and respect for all they have contributed and will continue to do by meeting a need, collaborating in food production, collaborating on climate crisis initiatives, and working with government and farming communities in sensible ways.”
The broadcaster’s intervention comes in the form of a petition launched by Countryside Alliance Wales, which continues to collect hundreds of signatures every day.
The online petition is calling on the Welsh Government and NRW to “stop buying productive farmland for planting trees that threatens our fragile rural communities, heritage, culture and the Welsh language”.
It continued: “We are deeply concerned by the number of companies buying productive farmland to plant trees to offset their carbon emissions and believe the Welsh Government should continue to protect our communities from this practice.”
The petition was launched after a freedom of information request from the Countryside Alliance revealed the Welsh Government has spent a staggering £6million buying land with taxpayers’ money.
In February, the Welsh Government announced that new memorial woodland would be planted in three different locations, including a patch of farmland at Brownhill in the Tywi Valley in Carmarthenshire. The plans call for planting at least 60,000 trees, raising fears that valuable agricultural land will be lost.
In the Carmarthenshire village of Cwrt-y-Cadno, Frongoch Farm was sold early last year to Foresight Group – a multi-billion dollar private equity firm based in The Shard. There are plans to plant thousands of trees across the valley, prompting locals to fight back, arguing that the reforestation will be mostly conifers, which could damage the soil and have a negative impact on the landscape.
There are also several reports of farmers being attacked through cold calling by agents working for investors who want to buy farmland to plant trees.
Rachel Evans, Director of Countryside Alliance Wales, said: “It is truly an honor to have Roy Noble’s support of an incredibly important campaign.
“We cannot stand by and watch as productive farmland is swallowed up for tree planting initiatives which, while well intentioned, have long-term, negative, irreversible consequences for farming families in Wales and are threatening our ability to produce our own food.
“Each signature represents one voice and together with Roy Noble we are urging the Welsh public to ensure their voices are heard by signing our petition today.”
The online petition can be found here.