Farm groups have expressed their bitter disappointment after Senedd members voted not to annul Welsh Government’s controversial new water regulations yesterday.
Plaid Cymru’s Shadow Rural Affairs Minister Llyr Gruffydd tabled the motion, which was defeated by 30 votes to 27.
NFU Cymru president John Davies thanked the Members of the Senedd who ‘stood up for rural Wales’, but hit out at the Government’s decision to plough ahead with the plans, which make the whole of Wales a Nitrate Vulnerable Zone.
“I am deeply disappointed that Welsh Government, in the height of a global pandemic, has proceeded with a copy and paste into Welsh law of one of the most ineffective and criticised pieces of EU regulation,” he said.
“I remain astounded as to why our Government has totally ignored the 45 recommendations based on advice and guidance, voluntary approaches, investment support and smart regulation to improve water quality put forward in 2018 by an expert group chaired and resourced by its own regulator, Natural Resources Wales.
“It is clear Welsh Government never had any intention to work in partnership, engage with the evidence or deliver bespoke Welsh-made policies to tackle water quality.”
Farmers Union of Wales president Glyn Roberts echoed these comments, saying the rules were proven to be ineffective and in many areas make water pollution worse.
A scientific study of the impact of EU legislation found 69 per cent of areas designated as NVZs for between 12 and 15 years showed no significant improvement in surface water concentrations after 15 years, and 31 per cent showed a significant worsening.
“It is a bitter blow to see a majority of Senedd members voting to support such a lazy, unimaginative and economically and environmentally damaging approach which makes a mockery of devolution and our desire to make Wales a better place,” Mr Roberts said.
“It marks the Welsh Government hitting rock bottom on so many levels – not least in terms of misleading the Senedd by breaking the repeated promise not to bring forward legislation until after the coronavirus pandemic, and making false claims about agricultural pollution getting worse in recent years when incidences have fallen.”
CLA Cymru also vowed to ‘keep on fighting’ for Welsh farmers despite the vote.
Fraser McAuley, CLA policy adviser, said: “Affected farmers will need support to upgrade and increase slurry storage capacity to comply.
“We really do not believe the Welsh Government has allocated sufficient resource to do the job and we will be pressing hard for more capital support through the Farm Business and Sustainable Production Grants.
“Penalising hard-stretched farmers will lead to more departures from the business by small operators.
“The livelihood of many small family farms is at stake.”
According to estimates put together by FUW, farmers will face average up-front capital costs of about £14,500 to comply with the regulations and £245 annual operational expenses in a high-cost scenario.
The estimates show up-front capital costs for farmers across the whole of Wales would total £109 million, even in a low-cost scenario, dwarfing the £11.5m pot of funding made available by Welsh Government to improve on-farm infrastructure.
In a high-cost scenario, the figure would be £360m.