NFU Cymru president John Davies has said he is ‘deeply concerned’ about the Welsh Government’s proposed new water quality regulations which ‘mirror’ controversial Nitrate Vulnerable Zone (NVZ) plans.
Speaking at the NFU conference in Birmingham this week (February 19), Mr Davies explained he had serious concerns about both the content of the regulations and the way Ministers had tried to introduce them without undertaking a risk impact assessment, which would consider the effect they would have on farmers.
The new rules are due to come into force from 2020, with a transitional period.
They will cover nutrient management planning, sustainable fertiliser applications linked to requirement of the crop, protection of water from pollution related to when, where and how fertilisers are spread and manure storage standards.
Mr Davies said: “[When] the details of these regulations became known, we found out they would effectively mirror the requirements for NVZs, which together with some additional measures will apply to the whole of Wales.
“The requirements of these new regulations are a matter of deep concern to NFU Cymru – in particular, the cost, complexity and measures every farmer will be asked to comply with.”
The union has also questioned whether the new rules should be introduced amid Brexit uncertainties.
In 2016, an NFU Cymru survey found one in eight farmers would consider leaving the industry if the old NVZ proposals were introduced, and almost three quarters of surveyed farmers did not have sufficient slurry storage to meet the NVZ requirements.
Under pressure from industry, the Minister showed a willingness to consider voluntary measures, drawing on the experience of an off-set scheme used by a group of First Milk dairy farmers which has seen participating farms save an average of a tonne of nutrient every year.
But the latest proposals appear to resurrect the regulatory approach.
Dr Tim Render, Welsh Government’s lead director for the environment and rural affairs, said the plan was necessary to reduce agricultural pollution which has increased over the past three years.
“It is one of those things we really need to get gripped and that is why we felt it necessary to go down the regulation route,” he added.