Welsh Rural Affairs Minister Lesley Griffiths appeared to retreat on the Government’s commitment to introducing closed periods for slurry spreading at NFU Cymru’s annual conference today (November 7).
Ms Griffiths was asked about the plans, which are included in the new water rules due to come into force in January 2020, in light of Natural England chair Tony Juniper’s recent comments to Farmers Guardian that farming by calendar does not achieve the best environmental results.
Although during her speech at the conference, Ms Griffiths claimed the water measures were ‘appropriate to the level of risk’, she softened her position on closed periods for slurry spreading in the question and answer session.
“I have to say, the dates do concern me, because I do not remember having summers like we have had for many years,” she said.
“This year has been another example of a wet autumn, so it is not an obsession, and I have asked officials to look very carefully as to why we have to have it.
“That is part of what we are looking at, and there is a Wales Land Management Forum in relation to this, looking at the impact of it.”
The Minister’s remarks followed a plea by NFU Cymru president John Davies to rethink the plans, which he said would put farmers across Wales out of business.
He also called on her to read the 100 pages of evidence which the union submitted to her in September this year.
Ms Griffiths said she had so far read 50 pages of the document, and promised to look at the rest.
The news came just one month after NFU Cymru wrote to the Welsh Government to seek an exemption which would allow farmers operating in NVZs to spread during the closed period.
The union was forced to write the letter after being contacted by a number of farmers who were ‘concerned and distressed’ that the prolonged wet weather had prevented them from spreading, leaving their slurry stores close to full capacity.