Review of the Control of Agricultural Pollution Regulations 2021

02 April 2024

Rachel Lewis-Davies

Rachel Lewis-Davies

National Environment and Land Use Adviser

North Wales farmland

With NFU Cymru’s response to the Sustainable Farming Scheme consultation completed and submitted, the focus is now very much on water quality. The fourth Phosphates Summit to be convened by the First Minister was held on 18 March.  Welsh Government has also started to confirm the arrangements for the review of the Control of Agricultural Pollution Regulations 2021.

Article 44 of the regulations require Welsh Ministers, at least every four years, to review the effectiveness of the measures imposed by these regulations as a means of reducing or preventing water pollution from agricultural sources and, if necessary, revise them.  When carrying out the review, Welsh Ministers must take into account available scientific and technical data, particularly with reference to respective nitrogen contributions originating from agricultural land and other sources; and regional environmental conditions. 

First statutory review

On 27 February, Welsh Government confirmed that it was putting in place the arrangements for the first statutory review which needs to be completed by 1 April 2025.  Welsh Government also intends to consult on the suitability of alternative measure proposals received from the sector.  The process, Welsh Government has said, will be overseen by an independent external chair.

NFU Cymru's view

NFU Cymru remains clear the regulations, which in effect introduce a Nitrate Vulnerable Zone across the whole of Wales, are not fit-for-purpose and are impacting on both farm business viability and the health and well-being of farmers who continue to grapple with this complex and costly piece of legislation.  However, it seems it would be  unwise to assume that the review will deliver a regulatory regime that is less burdensome.  Indications are, in fact, that Welsh Government is looking to ramp up regulation, for example, proposing in the Sustainable Farming Scheme consultation, that the results of potassium and phosphorus analysis will also need to be incorporated into the regulations’ already onerous record-keeping requirements. 

Of course, the review is needed, not least because Welsh Government has only committed to the Enhanced Nutrient Management Approach for 2024 and a long-term sustainable solution to the 170 kg/ha Nitrogen (N) limit from livestock manures is needed. 

Ahead of the review, NFU Cymru will hold Welsh Government to its commitment, as part of the co-operation agreement with Plaid Cymru, to undertake a specific Regulatory Impact Assessment considering the economic and environmental impacts of the 170 kg/ha N limit. 

We will oppose in the strongest terms any proposals that add to the regulatory burden on farmers. We are clear the review must provide the opportunity to bring positive improvements to the regulations so that they are workable and achievable for Welsh farmers.  Welsh Government must also honour its commitment to provide £20m to support compliance with the regulations without delay.

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