Welsh Government's Clean Air Plan must not betray farmers

The Farmers’ Union of Wales has responded with concern to the recently launched Welsh Government Clean Air Plan, stating that it must not betray farmers.

The plan, launched last week, aims to improve air quality and reduce the impacts of air pollution on human health, biodiversity, the natural environment and the economy by working jointly across sectors to put in place evidenced based policy, legislation, regulations and investment to reduce air pollution in line with international air quality standards.

Furthermore, the Welsh Government stated it will introduce a new law to tackle agricultural pollution by in effect introducing EU Nitrate Vulnerable Zone (NVZ) legislation for the whole of Wales, as well as a National Minimum Standards based on the verifiable standards in Cross Compliance.

Responding to the announcement, FUW President Glyn Roberts said: “As farmers we take the state of our environment very seriously. It affects everything we do and it is in our interest to work together with Governments and others to achieve the best possible standards. Whilst this plan is focussed in the main on urban areas, where the worst pollution by far exists, the elements relating to our rural areas would in fact undermine the good work that is already being done by our farmers while also devastating businesses. 

“By referring to the introduction of an all-Wales NVZ in the paper the Welsh Government is once again failing to respect the scientific evidence and their own advisors, while also ignoring the drastic and devastating impacts on businesses and families such draconian and disproportionate measures would have.

“They’re also failing to take account of the evidence of detrimental or negligible impacts from other NVZ areas,” 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 Natural Resources Wales (NRW) - the Welsh Government’s own official advisors.

“Given the severe warnings of NRW and expected crippling costs for Wales’ farming industry that would run into hundreds of millions, and the extreme uncertainty due to coronavirus and Brexit, this proposal is wrong and warrants a comprehensive impact assessment so Ministers, politicians and their constituent can truly gauge the likely impacts.

“In addition, the introduction of the Cross Compliance Verifiable Standards into National Minimum Standards – a future regulatory baseline, needs to be given much more thought in terms of suitability for the industry as there are serious concerns about how our farmers will absorb the costs if the Basic Payment Scheme is phased out,” added Mr Roberts.