Farmers have accused the Welsh Government of trying to bury the new bovine TB consultation by holding it at the same time as a separate consultation on controversial Nitrate Vulnerable Zones (NVZs) proposals.
The NVZ consultation closed on December 23 and farmers have to give their views on TB policy by January 10.
The deadlines were just over two weeks apart, with the TB consultation also running over the Christmas period, making it difficult for farmers to find time to respond.
Tom Jones, a dairy and beef farmer from Pembrokeshire, said: “Everyone I have spoken to has said the deadlines are too tight.
“The timing over Christmas is strange. I feel like having two consultations so close together is a deliberate plan to push through the changes as quickly as they can.
“All the efforts of lobbying groups were on NVZs so they did not have the time or staff to focus on TB.”
Environment Secretary Lesley Griffiths told the Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs committee she was ‘disappointed’ and ‘surprised’ at the low response to the TB consultation given farmers’ strong views on the subject.
But Mr Jones said it was not surprising so few people had expressed their views given the timing and the effort involved in responding to the consultations.
“The NVZs consultation has been in public view for a while, but the TB one was almost kept aside, I did not know about it until the document was released”, he added.
Unions agreed the timing of the consultations was poor, with Farmers’ Union of Wales TB spokesman Brian Walters saying the Government issuing a ‘large number’ of farming consultations in the run up to Christmas would ‘not have helped’ with response rates.
NFU Cymru president Stephen James said: “Although both consultations run for 12 weeks, the winter and Christmas period is a busy one.
“We would suggest the timing could have been better than to have two major consultations running almost alongside each other and with the TB consultation also straddling the Christmas and new year period.”
A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “Both our consultations on Nitrate Vulnerable Zones in Wales and on the refreshed Bovine TB Eradication programme will run for the full 12 weeks, which is the average time for all our consultations.”