Draconian WG water quality proposals would push dairy farms ‘over the edge’, FUW dairy committee warns

Dairy farmers in Wales have spoken of their deep concern that water quality regulations published in draft form by Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs Minister Lesley Griffiths would push dairy farms ‘over the edge’.

Discussing the draft legislation at an emergency meeting of the Farmers’ Union of Wales Milk and Dairy produce committee, delegates were clear that a large proportion of the industry, which is already suffering severe impacts due to the knock-on impact of Coronavirus, would not survive if these regulations were to be introduced.

“Large numbers of Welsh dairy farmers have seen massive falls in the price they receive for their milk as well as delays to payments due to the closure of the service sector and other impacts caused by coronavirus,” said FUW Milk and Dairy produce committee chairman Dai Miles. 

This has led to some farmers having to throw thousands of litres of milk away and large numbers losing vast sums of money on a daily basis, said Mr Miles.

“We are currently doing everything we can to find ways of ensuring farm businesses can survive, but whatever happens our industry will be under severe financial pressures at the end of this crisis.

“The publication of draft regulations that would require families in such a precarious situation to find tens or hundreds of thousands of pounds to comply, plus large annual compliance costs thereafter, feels like a knife in the back to a sector already under severe pressure,” he added.  

The draft legislation, if introduced, would designate the whole of Wales as an NVZ, an area more than forty times bigger than the current Welsh NVZ area, and eleven times bigger than what was recommended by NRW, making tens of thousands of farms subject to draconian rules which normally only apply in areas where pollution problems have been shown to exist.

“For the vast majority of Welsh farms there is no evidence that such measures are needed, and there is even a real risk that the regulations would actually increase pollution,” said Mr Miles, who highlighted the fact that the draft regulations ignored recommendations by their own official advisors, Natural Resources Wales, as well as a detailed 2018 report by the Wales Land Management Forum aimed at targeting agricultural pollution based on evidence and ensuring resources were focussed on places where pollution problems had been identified.

Mr Miles said that one tenant farmer on the FUW’s Dairy committee had been told by experts that compliance with the draft regulations would cost the business £100,000 - money the landlord was not prepared to invest and that the family could not afford, meaning the business would have to end. 

“We have repeatedly raised the issue of tenant farms as well as a range of other issues, none of which have been addressed. The Welsh Government has simply cut and pasted the EU regulations rather than taking the opportunity to introduce a proportionate, targeted and innovative approach to tackling problems we all want to see dealt with where they do occur.

“On behalf of our dairy industry and every other farmer here in Wales, I hope the Minister uses the time she has now to reconsider these regulations. For the sake of all our futures, including that of the environment which we care for deeply,” added Mr Miles.