NFU Cymru highly concerned at Welsh Government’s approach to new agricultural pollution regulations
NFU Cymru remains highly concerned at Welsh Government’s approach to introducing new rules for water in Wales.
The new rules, to be introduced across Wales from 1st January 2020, are effectively a ‘cut and paste’ of the full Nitrate Vulnerable Zone (NVZ) action programme, and include statutory measures to control the dates (closed periods) under which nitrogen and organic fertilisers are spread; requiring farmers to have capacity for five months storage of manures and slurries as well as preparing detailed plans and increased record keeping. Transitionary periods are expected to apply for some elements.
Commenting at Pembrokeshire Show, NFU Cymru President John Davies said: “Welsh Government is opting to apply NVZ rules for the whole of Wales, despite water quality monitoring undertaken by Natural Resources Wales in line with the EU Nitrates Directive clearly showing there can be no question whatsoever of the need for such an approach.
“Every farmer in Wales will be required to adhere to this costly and complex regulation which will involve significantly more paperwork and record-keeping for every farm business, not to mention significant expense. This is not evidence-based decision making. It is an approach we categorically reject.”
Mr Davies added: “Welsh Government’s approach is highly contradictory and works against its own objectives of a regulatory regime that is simplified, proportionate to the risks involved, focussed on delivering outcomes and not driven by process as described in its recent consultation ‘Sustainable Farming and Our Land’, which sets out revised proposals of how farmers will be supported post Brexit.
“The new regulations also put into the sphere of regulation many nutrient management actions that Welsh Government proposes to support through its proposed Sustainable Farming Scheme. Welsh Government will only fund actions above the regulatory baseline and establishing a regulatory baseline that is so high will severely limit the actions that farmers can be rewarded for as part of a future scheme. The lack of integration and join-up between these two work streams is highly concerning.
NFU Cymru Pembrokeshire County President Jeff Evans said: “NFU Cymru has repeatedly called for Welsh Government to undertake a full regulatory impact assessment to understand the full economic, environmental, social and cultural impacts associated with the new regulations. It is vital that Welsh Government does not move ahead before understanding and addressing the damaging impacts on the farming sector. NFU Cymru is currently working to put its own evidence before the Minister.
“We are in no doubt that Welsh Government’s approach will threaten farm business viability, increase bureaucracy and complexity, and reduce farmers’ ability to make good management decisions relating to resource management based on their knowledge of their own farm and prevailing weather and ground conditions. All for, at best, marginal benefit as the effectiveness of the NVZ Action Programme in reducing levels of nitrates from agriculture in pre-existing NVZs is far from proven. We are clear that the costs associated with the proposed new regulation are disproportionate and vastly outweigh any benefits to water quality.”
“It is frankly astonishing that Welsh Government are adding so significantly to the regulatory burden with an approach that we know will not deliver the outcomes for water quality that we all want to see, and at a time when farmers are trying to cope with the profound uncertainty of Brexit with the very real threat of ‘No deal’ on 31st October.”
Concluding, John Davies said: “NFU Cymru remains absolutely committed to working in genuine partnership on the development and implementation of a framework that supports farmers to take action to safeguard and improve water quality.”