NFU Cymru has, this week, written to the Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths AM and again called for the proposed blanket NVZ regulatory approach to be reconsidered. This is in the light of emerging evidence which reinforces the fact that costly and complex NVZ regulation will test the Welsh farming industry beyond its limits.
NFU Cymru President John Davies said: “Last month, NFU Cymru submitted over 100 pages of evidence to the Minister setting out why the whole territory NVZ approach was completely unjustified and disproportionate. Based on evidence from the existing NVZ designations within Wales, we are clear that this proposed regulatory approach will not improve environmental outcomes in terms of reduced agricultural pollution and water quality benefits.
“Since the NFU Cymru submission last month, new and highly relevant evidence continues to emerge which intensifies our concerns about the ability of the sector to adjust to the proposed regulatory regime. This includes the supply chain issues in the dairy sector of recent days which will be causing high levels of anxiety for the farmers concerned. The recent joint report on the mental health and well-being of farmers by Public Health Wales and the Mental Health Foundation is also highly pertinent. The report identifies the burden that regulation and administration places on farmers and the devastating consequences that this can have. As a key recommendation, the report includes the ‘assessment of progress against the 2011 Working Smarter recommendations to streamline the administration and regulatory processes in farming’.
“We strongly believe Welsh Government must take this work forward as a matter of urgency and before increasing the regulatory burden on farmers. The Working Smarter Review (2011) included a number of recommendations highly relevant to the way Welsh Government is currently operating, not least Recommendation 45 which states that ‘A risk-based and targeting approach should underpin the application of environmental regulations in Wales’.
“It is highly ironic that Welsh Government’s current approach is neither risk-based nor targeted despite evidence which shows beyond doubt that the issue Welsh Government states it is seeking to address – levels of agricultural pollution - is highly variable across Wales with many catchments incurring zero incidents of pollution in the last decade.”
Mr Davies added: “We are dismayed that Welsh Government can even consider pursuing over-burdensome EU regulation at this time of profound uncertainty for farming, particularly as it will deliver minimal environmental benefit. NFU Cymru also remains highly concerned at the lack of openness and transparency shown by Welsh Government on this issue over the past few months. If Welsh Government wishes to pursue a ‘cut and paste’ of the NVZ Action Programme which is an unwieldy and inflexible EU regulation, then it needs, at the very least, to be honest with farmers and provide the resources required to enable each and every farmer in Wales to reach compliance.
“We urge Welsh Government to consider the costs and impacts very carefully before moving forward. Our evidence is clear, proposed new regulations as they currently stand will not deliver the outcomes for water quality and many farm businesses and jobs will be threatened.”