Welsh Government regulatory measures to tackle agricultural pollution

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This briefing provides an update following the Welsh Government Written Statement dated 14th November 2018, available here

On 14th November 2018, Welsh Government confirmed regulations covering the whole of Wales to protect water quality from agricultural pollution would be introduced in the Spring of 2019, coming into force from 1st January 2020 with transitional periods for some elements to allow farmers time to adapt and ensure compliance.  Regulations are to include the following measures:

  • Nutrient management planning
  • Sustainable fertiliser applications linked to the requirements of the crop
  • Protection of water from pollution related to when, where and how fertilisers are spread
  • Manure storage standards

Welsh Government has confirmed that new regulations will not be subject to consultation.  The Minister has confirmed to NFU Cymru that the development of the regulations will be subject to consideration of the available evidence and the findings of a Regulatory Impact Assessment which has been commissioned by ADAS.  Further information on the work that NFU Cymru has undertaken is available here. NFU Cymru advanced its legal concerns over the new rules and details of the specific concerns can be found here.

In making the decision to introduce new regulation, the Welsh Government state they have to ensure that a number of issues are addressed including agricultural pollution, trade in agricultural produce and providing baseline standards above which payments can be made to farmers for public goods outcomes.  The complete regulatory baseline underpinning future schemes will be developed through further consultation. 

Detail of the new regulation is summarised below, based on the Welsh Government Agricultural Pollution Measures document. A powerpoint presentation summarising the new regulations is also available for members.

Click on each heading to find out more:

Nutrient Management Planning (NMP)

Calculating the amount of nitrogen available for crop uptake from organic manure

Risk Maps

Fertiliser Applications

Storage of slurry and silage – transitional period will apply

Further measures

Next steps

Nutrient Management Planning (NMP)

Farmers will need to determine the optimum amount of nitrogen that should be spread on the crop (including grassland), taking into account the soil nitrogen supply and produce a plan for the spreading of nitrogen fertiliser for each calendar year.  The NMP must provide a field reference; area of the field; type of crop; soil type, previous crop; the soil nitrogen supply and the method used to establish this figure; the anticipated month the crop will be planted; the anticipated yield (if arable); the optimum amount of nitrogen that should be spread on the crop taking into account SNS; area on which the organic manure will be spread; amount of manure to be spread; planned date for spreading (month); type of organic manure; total N content and available N; amount of manufactured fertiliser required; total nitrogen spread on a holding.

Calculating the amount of nitrogen available for crop uptake from organic manure

The total amount of nitrogen in livestock manure must be determined using standard figures or from sampling and analysis (following established methodology).  The amount of N available from livestock manure which is available for crop uptake must be determined using standard percentages provided.

Risk Maps

Risk maps must be produced showing each field, with its area in hectares; all surface waters; any boreholes, springs or wells on the holding or within 50 metres of the holding boundary; areas with sandy or shallow soils; land with an incline greater than 12o; land within 10 metres of surface waters; land drains (other than a sealed impermeable pipe); sites suitable for temporary field heaps if this method of storing manure is to be used; land that has a low run-off risk (this is option if spreading manure on low run-off risk land during the storage period is not intended); and if spreading organic manure using precision spreading equipment up to 6 metres from surface water.

Fertiliser Applications

Application limits for organic manure – the total amount of nitrogen from livestock manure applied to the spreadable areas of the holding must not exceed 170kg/ha.  Standard figures will apply for N in livestock manure.  250kg/N/ha limit will be applied for an individual field.  250kg/N/ha limit for the entire holding for grassland farms where additional measures take place to reduce the risk of pollution including the inclusion of phosphate in NMPs including soil testing, ensuring 80% of the holding is grassland, ploughing restrictions and seeding in terms of timings and N fixing properties.  (Farmers will be required to submit an application).  Limits of 1000kg/N/ha from PAS 100 compost (not contaminated with animal manure) can be applied in any four year period as mulch to orchard land or 500kg/N/ha in any two year period if it is applied to any other land.

Crop limits – the total amount of nitrogen from manufactured nitrogen fertiliser and that available for crop uptake from organic manure must not exceed the crop limits as specified.

Spreading fertiliser – before spreading, a field inspection should be carried out to consider the risk of surface water pollution.  Fertiliser must not be spread on that land if there is a significant risk of pollution, taking into account the slope of the land, particularly if the slope is more than 12o; any ground cover; the proximity to surface water; the weather conditions; the soil type; and the presence of land drains.  Fertiliser must not be spread if the soil is waterlogged, flooded or snow covered, is frozen, or has been frozen for more than 12 hours in the previous 24 hours.  Manufactured nitrogen fertiliser must not be spread within 2 metres of surface water.  Organic manure must not be spread within 50 metres of a borehole, spring or well or 10 metres of surface water (6m if precision spreading). 

Spreading accuracy – slurry spreading equipment must have a trajectory which is below 4 metres from the ground.  Spreading must be done in as accurate a manner as possible.

Retaining N within the soil – poultry manure, slurry and liquid sewage sludge applied on the surface of bare soil or stubble (but not sown) must ensure that it is incorporated into the soil as soon as practicable and within 24 hours unless precision spreading equipment is used.  Any other organic manure (other than organic manure spread as a mulch on sandy soil) must be incorporated into the soil as soon as practicable, and within 24 hours at the latest, if the land is within 50 metres of surface water and slopes in such a way that there may be run-off to that water. 

Closed periods for spreading fertiliser - Transitional period will apply – organic manure with high readily available nitrogen (30% or more available N) must not be spread on land during closed period below:

Soil type


Tillage land

Sandy or shallow soil

1st September to 31 December

1st August to 31st December

All other soils

1st October to 15th January

1st October to 31st January

Spreading organic manure with high readily available N on tillage land with sandy or shallow soil is permitted between 1st August and 15th September provided that the crop is sown on or before 15 September. 

Registered organic producers may spread organic manure with high readily available N at any time on specified crops or other crops in accordance with written advice from a FACTS registered adviser, provided that each ha does not receive more than 150kg total N between the start or the closed period and the end of February.

Manufactured N fertiliser must not be spread on grassland from 15th September to 15th January, or tillage land from 1st September to 15th January other than up to the maximum rate for specified crops.  For crops specified, spreading permitted on the basis of written advice from a FACTS registered adviser.

From the end of the closed period until the end of February the maximum amount of slurry that may be spread at any one time is 30 cubic metres per ha; the max amount of poultry manure that may be spread at any one time is 8 tonnes per ha.  Three weeks must be allowed between each spreading – Transitional period will apply

Storage of slurry and silage – transitional period will apply

Separation of slurry – into solid and liquid fractions must either be carried out mechanically or on an impermeable surface where the liquid fraction drains into a suitable receptacle.

Storage of manure – organic manure (other than slurry), or any bedding contaminated with any organic manure, must be stored in a vessel; in a covered building; on an impermeable surface, or in the case of solid manure in a field heap.

Field heaps – must not be located in a field liable to flooding or becoming waterlogged, within 50m of a spring, well or borehole or within 10m of surface water or a land drain (other than impermeable pipe).  The field heap must not be located in any single position for more than 12 consecutive months or in the same place as an earlier one constructed within the last two years.

Solid poultry manure that does not have bedding mixed into it and is stored in a field heap must be covered with an impermeable material.

Topsoil must not be removed from the ground upon which a field heap is to be constructed.  A field heap must not be located within 30m of a watercourse on land identified on the risk map as having an incline of greater than 12o and the surface area should be as small as reasonably practicable.

Slurry storage capacity – slurry must be stored in a system that meets requirements except when it is stored temporarily in a tanker used for transporting slurry. 

Storage requirements are not necessary for slurry or poultry manure sent of the holding or spread on land that has low run-off risk.  However, storage facilities for an additional one week’s manure must be provided as a contingency measure.

Sufficient storage must be provided for pigs and poultry manure produced on the holding between 1st October and 1st April and for other manures produced in a yard or building on the holding 1st October and 1st March.  The ‘storage period’.

Volumes of manures produced by the animals on the holding must be calculated using standard figures.

Stores must also have the capacity to store any rainfall, washings or other liquid which enters the vessel during the storage period. 

SSAFO 1991 exemption – the construction requirements below will not apply to a store built before 1 March 1991

Making or storage of silage – other than silage stored temporarily in a container, trailer or vehicle in connection with transport, a person who has custody or control of silage must ensure that it is kept in a silo that meets requirements.  The base of the silo must extend beyond any walls of the silo, be provided at its perimeter with channels designed and constructed to collect any silage effluent and have adequate provision for the drainage of that effluent to an effluent tank though a channel or pipe.  The capacity of the effluent tank must not be, in the case of a silo with a capacity of less than 1500 cubic metres, 20 litres for each cubic metre of silo capacity.  Where a silo has a capacity of 1500 cubic metres or more the capacity must be 30 cubic metres plus 6.7litres for each cubic metre of silo capacity in excess of 1500 cubic metres.  The base of the silo must be designed in accordance with the code of practice for design of concrete structures for retaining aqueous liquids published by British Standards Institution.   The base of the silo, the base and walls of the effluent tank and channels and walls of any pipes must be impermeable and as far as reasonably practicable be resistant to attack by silage effluent.  No part of the silo, its effluent tank or channels may be situated within 10m of any inland freshwaters or coastal waters. 

Silage compressed into bales that are wrapped and sealed into impermeable membranes and are stored at least 10m from any inland freshwaters and coastal waters.  If the silage is a crop being made into field silage (silage made on open land by a method different to baling), or silage that is being stored on open land, NRW must be notified of the place at least 14 days before the place is first used.   Silage bales must not be opened or the wrap removed within 10m of inland freshwaters or coastal waters.

Notice requiring works – NRW may serve notice to carry out works, or take precautions or other steps specified in the notice.  The period of compliance will be 28 days.  NRW may withdraw the notice at any time, extend the period for compliance or modify the requirements of the notice.  A person served with a notice may, within the period of 28 days beginning on the day after the date on which the notice is served appeal to Welsh Ministers against the notice.  The 1991 exemption will cease to apply where the conditions of a notice have not been met.  14 days notice must be issued to NRW before construction begins. 

Other construction standards – includes the base of the slurry storage tank, the base and walls of any effluent tank, channels and reception pit and the walls of any pipes must be impermeable; protected against corrosion in accordance with paragraph 7 of the code of practice on buildings and structures for agriculture.   The base and walls of the slurry storage tank and any reception pit must be capable of withstanding characteristic loads calculated in line with paragraph 5 of the code of practice. The slurry storage tank should be constructed so that it can satisfy the above for at least 20 years.   You are referred to the Welsh Government document for full details.

Further measures

Details related to the above requirements – a record of the total size of holding must be made and updated with any changes within 1 month; a record must contain the amount of manure that will be produced by the anticipated number of animals that will be kept in a building or hardstanding during the storage period.  The storage capacity which is available and the amount of storage capacity needed must be recorded; if animals are brought onto a holding for the first time, adjustments to calculated within 1 month and storage capacity changes must be recorded within 1 week.  Before 30th April each year, for the previous storage period, the number and category of animals in a building or hardstanding during the storage period must be recorded.  Sites for field heaps and the dates of use must be recorded.  Before 30th April every year the amount of nitrogen in the manure produced by animals on the holding during that year must be recorded along with the number and category of animals on the holding during the previous calendar year, and the number of days that each animal spent on the holding.  Alternatively, in the case of permanently pigs and poultry, software approved by the Welsh Ministers can be used, or in the case of a system of keeping livestock that only produces solid manure, sampling and analysis.  If software used, a printout of the result must be kept.

Imported and exported livestock manure – If livestock manure is imported the type and amount of livestock manure and the date brought on, the N content and name and address of supplier must be recorded.  If the N content is not known, it must be determined by sampling and recorded within 1 week.   Details of exported manure should be recorded within 1 week. 

Details of crops sown – where spreading of N fertiliser is intended within one week of sowing a crop the crop sown and date of sowing must be recorded

Details of spreading N fertiliser – Within 1 week of spreading organic manure, the following must be recorded – the area spread, quantity, date or dates, method of spreading, type of organic manure, total N content, and amount of N available to the crop.  Within 1 week of spreading manufactured N fertiliser the date and amount must be recorded.  Fertiliser spreading records do not need to be made for holdings in which 80% of the agricultural area of a holding is sown with grass and the total amount of N in organic manure applied to the holding whether directly by animal or spreading is no more than 100 kg/ha and the total amount of N in manufactured N fertiliser applied to the holding is no more than 90kg/ha and organic manure is not brought on to the holding.  Where N fertiliser is used, the yield achieved by an arable crop must be recorded within one week.  Before 30th April each year, how any grassland was managed in the previous calendar year must be recorded.

Records and advice – FACTS advice that is relied on for any purpose in relation to the above requirements must be kept for five years.

Welsh Government have indicated that they will be working with the Wales Land Management Forum Sub-Group on Agricultural Pollution on the development of a support package for farmers including advice services, guidance documents and finance and on communicating the requirements as part of the implementation of regulations.  Advice will also be taken from the Sub-Group on the length of the transitional periods for the slurry storage requirements and the closed periods which will be apply.

NFU Cymru has submitted evidence to the Minister which includes analysis of a broad range of environment, economic, social and cultural factors. 

Data from Natural Resources Wales (NRW) as part of its Water Framework Directive (WFD) monitoring shows that the number of waterbodies achieving good or better overall status has increased in 2018 compared to 2015; water quality in rivers has generally improved over the last 25 years.  NRW data shows that less than 15% of WFD failures were attributable to agriculture in 2014.

Read NFU Cymru's submitted evidence and the summary document here

Last edited: 14:22 on 18 November 2019

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