The Farmers’ Union of Wales has reiterated its opposition to the establishment of pan-Wales agricultural pollution regulations which, if implemented, will cause significant financial and administrative burdens for farmers across Wales; the overwhelming majority of whom are fully compliant with current regulations.
In 2016, the Welsh Government published a consultation on the future of agricultural pollution regulations in Wales which proposed the option of discrete NVZ areas, or a whole-Wales approach. At present, just over 2 percent of Wales is designated as an NVZ, and the FUW Farmers’ Union of Wales strongly opposed any additional regulation being implemented onto farms which remain compliant with current regulations and are not responsible for pollution incidents.
Following the consultation, the FUW worked with the Wales Land Management Forum (WLMF) to produce a report for the Minister outlining 45 recommendations based upon 5 themes to tackle agricultural pollution in Wales. Despite these recommendations, in November 2018, the Welsh Government announced a proposal to implement a pan-Wales regulatory approach.
The FUW believes that a pan-Wales approach is unjustifiable given that just 1% of all Basic Payment Scheme claimants are involved in a pollution incident.
The fact that such a draconian blanket approach is being planned goes against the Welsh Government's commitment in December 2017 to strike the ‘right balance of comprehensive regulatory measures, voluntary measures and investment’ and ‘...explore further options to provide land managers with flexibility, where these would achieve the same or better outcomes than a regulatory approach’. Should the plans go ahead there would be an increase in the number of Welsh farm holdings subject to costly and restrictive legislation from an estimated 600 to more than 24,000.
The rules will have far-reaching repercussions for dairy farmers across Wales, but could also result in a fall in Welsh beef production due to increased costs and reductions in profitability.
The FUW has reiterated its call for the plans to be abandoned, and for a proportionate and targeted approach based on balanced evidence to be adopted. The Union recognises the serious need to tackle agricultural pollution but will continue to fight to ensure this is done in a way which is both proportionate and targeted, and reflects the local and national evidence base. The FUW continues to work with the WLMF Group to put forward an alternative industry endorsed evidence-based approach before any regulations are finalised.