Welsh farmers could receive no financial support to comply with burdensome new water rules and may have planning permission for the infrastructure necessary to meet the requirements rejected, a shocking new official information request has revealed.
The request, submitted by NFU Cymru, found Welsh Government held no information on an investment plan to help farmers meet the requirement to have five months’ slurry storage for cattle and six months’ for pig or poultry manure.
This is despite Rural Affairs Minister Lesley Griffiths hinting financial support for measures which reduced pollution may be provided at the union’s recent conference in Llandrindod Wells.
The request found no information on communication with Welsh Government’s Planning Directorate in relation to the regulations was held either, despite the fact that farmers are often prevented from taking forward infrastructure projects by the planning system.
Information on how Welsh Government is set to determine the closed periods, which Ms Griffiths recently expressed concern about, was withheld.
NFU Cymru deputy president Aled Jones said: “The response to the information request suggests Welsh Government has made no plans to enable and support the sector.
“This is alarming when you consider the support provided by the Northern Ireland executive over 10 years ago when the whole territory approach to Nitrate Vulnerable Zones (NVZs) was adopted.
“At the time, Northern Irish farmers were supported with an investment package of £140m, available at a grant rate of 60 per cent to aid investment in infrastructure.”
Mr Jones went on to say farmers would be faced with a choice of being non-compliant or leaving the sector altogether if the planning system was not sympathetic to their needs.
He also claimed it would be impossible for farmers to demonstrate compliance with the new rules, due to come into force in six weeks, when the Welsh Government website contained no information on how to prepare for the changes.
A Welsh Government spokesman said: “Agricultural pollution is one of the main causes of water pollution.
“Action is needed to tackle the damage being done to the environment, our rural communities and the reputation of the farming industry. Industry leaders must recognise the scale of this issue and take a responsible approach.
“A final decision will be made on the regulations once the Regulatory Impact Assessment has been finalised. This has been developed in consultation with NFU Cymru and other stakeholders.
“Implementation arrangements, including financial support, will be dependent on the findings of the Regulatory Impact Assessment and any resulting regulations.”