NOVEMBER is rushing by, COP26 has been and gone, including the 400 private planes it took to get delegates there and the Winter Fair is knocking on our door, writes FUW president GLYN ROBERTS.

It will be Christmas before we know it! But we mustn’t wish time away - between now and Christmas there is much to do here at the FUW.

The team this week is busy putting the finishing touches on preparations for the Winter Fair and we very much look forward to welcoming you to our stand by the main ring on Monday and Tuesday, November 29 and 30.

The other issue that has been keeping us busy, especially against the background of COP26 and the Wales Climate Week, are the ongoing reports of tree planting on Welsh land by outside companies and individuals wishing to offset their carbon emissions and/or cash in on the growing carbon market.

Within the past century, the area of woodland in Wales increased threefold, from five per cent in 1919 to around 15 per cent today, with the vast majority of the increase down to the planting of non-native conifers. Such increases were particularly notable in the uplands; for example between 1948 and 1983 the area of the Cambrian Mountains under conifer plantations increased seven-fold, to 21 per cent.

The experience over the past century has highlighted the damage that well intentioned policies aimed at increasing woodland areas can have, as large-scale government driven planting on land previously used for livestock production has devastated ecosystems and displaced entire communities.

The GVA of forestry and logging is around £73/hectare for all Welsh woodland and £149/hectare if only coniferous forestry is taken into account.

This compares to a GVA for Welsh farmland (excluding farm woodland) of £212/hectare.

Similarly, around 0.6 people work in the forestry and logging industry for every square kilometre of Welsh woodland (1.2/km2 if only coniferous forestry is taken into account) compared with around three people working on farms for every square kilometre of Welsh farmland.

The history and the figures therefore raise grave concerns about what is happening. That said, Welsh farmers are actually keen to plant woodland and also manage the 75,700 hectares of existing farm woodland so that it produces useable timber and sequesters more carbon. However, they face obstacles to doing this, especially if they are already in the Glastir agri-environmental scheme, and the market and policies seem to favour outside investors buying up Welsh land for afforestation to cash in on the growing carbon market.

Those purchasing such land invariably have funds at their disposal that allow them to outbid local farmers and residents.

The result is the loss of farmland and habitat; the movement of Welsh land ownership to individuals and companies based outside Wales; the displacement of Welsh families from the land they have farmed for generations; stark falls in the contribution of land and families to local economies and communities; and the diversion of income derived from carbon credits and other schemes to people and companies from outside Wales.

Members can be assured the FUW is doing all it can to engage with the Welsh Government and the Senedd on this to see changes that will put a stop to what can by only be described as a land grab.