Natural Resources Wales – the Welsh Government-funded body that replaced the Environment Agency, Forestry Commission and Countryside Council for Wales – has been criticised for the lacklustre way it communicates and engages with farmers.
That was NFU Cymru’s key message presented to members of the Welsh Assembly’s Environment and Sustainability Committee’s during a scrutiny session looking at NRW’s effectiveness.
In its evidence the union said the establishment of NRW and subsequent merger of three organisations into a single body had led to significant uncertainty for the farming industry.
Concern was also expressed that since NRW’s establishment in April 2013, it had lost many of its key staff with agricultural expertise, making it difficult for farmers to access accurate advice and guidance on regulation and best practice.
"Farmers in Wales find themselves operating in an increasingly complex regulatory context and two years on from NRW’s establishment it is clear that far more focus is required on the development of an effective communication and engagement strategy with the agricultural industry," Rachel Lewis-Davies the union’s environment and rural affairs adviser, told AMs.
Since 80 per cent of the land area was devoted to agriculture, there was a need to engage farming stakeholders from the outset in all aspects of NRW work relating to land in private ownership.
There were instances where this was not the case, pointing to the need for a much stronger representation of the agricultural sector on the NRW board.
The union also repeated its opposition to the introduction of general binding rules for an activity working alongside proportionate penalties.
Welsh farmers were already governed by a raft of regulations, together with cross compliance, to deliver baseline standards.
General binding rules would result in another layer of regulation, adding costs and reducing competitiveness.