The industry hit back at claims an ‘explosion’ of poultry farms was having ‘devastating environmental consequences’.
The Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales (CPRW) urged ministers to come up with a long-term strategy to cap the number of intensive poultry units and implement stricter regulation, better planning guidance and approve more organic and free-range enterprises.
But FUW policy officer Charlotte Priddy said many farmers were planning to curb the uncertainty of Brexit through diversification into egg and poultry businesses, something she said was an attractive option due to short-term profitability, less dependency on support payments and less vulnerability surrounding future exports.
She said poultry units in Wales were regulated by Natural Resources Wales (NRW) and planning regulations which ensured the highest standards of health and welfare were adhered to.
A petition submitted by CPRW to call on the Welsh government to fund research and provide up to date advice on the planning departments of councils was therefore worrying, she said.
“Many farmers in Wales have diversified into free-range egg production as a response to changing diets and growing consumer demand for free-range eggs in the UK,” Ms Priddy said.
“The poultry sector in Wales remains relatively small and poultry farms in Wales are regulated to the highest standards by Natural Resource Wales.”
NFU Cymru poultry representative Victoria Shervington-Jones reiterated the planning system was heavily regulated with large poultry units monitored by the Environmental Permitting Regulations (EPR), administered and enforced by NRW.
The NRW guidance on ammonia screening thresholds for EPR had also been made more stringent in April last year, she added.
“With a lot of uncertainty around Brexit and its impact on the farming industry, farmers have to make good, viable business decision in order to remain resilient in the future,” Ms Shervington-Jones said.
“With demand for poultry products increasing year-on-year and a real worry about the sheep sector in particular, a number of farmers are diversifying to help ensure the future viability of their businesses and they cannot be blamed for this.”