The predominantly moist temperate maritime climate combined with topography of Wales means that agriculture is primarily focused on raising livestock for meat and milk production. Red meat production (sheep, cattle, pigs) contributes the largest share, some 43% of total the Welsh Agricultural Output. The growing of arable or horticultural crops and raising poultry or pigs are smaller sectors.
Upland sheep or cattle farms comprise 31% of the total with 4% dairy. Currently there are about 9.7 million sheep in Wales (about a quarter of the total number of sheep in the UK). and around 1.1 million cattle.
The Less Favoured Areas (LFAs) designation covers 76% of the agricultural land area in Wales. These areas are defined as land where agricultural productivity is limited by topographical and climatic constraints such as steep slopes, poor soils and high rainfall. The Welsh Agricultural Statistics 2012-2013 showed there was 63,366 ha of woodland (20% of all woodland in Wales) on agricultural holdings in 2013, primarily located in Less Favoured Areas.
The Authority recognises the importance of agriculture to Snowdonia by having dedicated staff to work alongside farmers in the delivery of National Park Purposes. In recent years, the Agriculture Liaison Section has been instrumental in drawing down European funding to enable farmers to undertake a number of land management projects.
Additional to the delivery of grants for land management the section also provides technical and policy advice/ support and determines permitted developing (planning) applications for agriculture within the National Park.
Agricultural Land Classification
The Agricultural Land Classification system provides a mechanism for assessing the quality of agricultural land to make informed decisions about its future use. The classification is based on the long-term physical limitations of land for agricultural use. Factors affecting the grade are: climate, site and soil characteristics and the important interactions between them. Figure 6 presents a map showing the classifications for land within the National Park. The land is graded 3 (good/moderate) and below.
Figure 6: Agricultural Land Classification for the National Park (Source: Snowdonia National Park Authority, 2008)