In November 2018, the Welsh Government announced an intention to bring forward pan-Wales NVZ style regulations on agricultural pollution. The number of Welsh farm holdings subject to NVZ style rules will rise from an estimated 600 to more than 24,000 and would be subject to stricter regulations. The FUW believes that a pan-Wales approach is unjustifiable given that just 1% of all Basic Payment Scheme claimants have been shown to be involved in a pollution incident.
One of the major concerns surrounding the new regulations is the use of closed periods for slurry spreading. Despite the original deadline of January 1st 2020, a decision on the introduction of closed periods has not yet been made and the plans continue to be under review whilst the Welsh Government undertakes a Regulatory Impact Assessment. Minister Lesley Griffiths remains convinced action needs to be taken therefore the worries associated with the proposals still stand.
The FUW continues to state that introducing a closed period in Wales could very likely increase agri-pollution incidents by forcing farmers to spread slurry at times that do not fit with demonstrable changes in weather patterns.
In England, the idea of abolishing rules relating to closed periods has been supported by Natural England Chair, Tony Juniper, and the FUW continues to call on the Welsh Government to be pragmatic and proportionate when discussing the use of closed periods for slurry spreading.
The FUW has consistently stated that ‘farming by calendar’ can go against the environment by forcing farmers to spread slurry at inappropriate times to ensure that slurry storage facilities do not overflow.
A flexible approach, which recognises changing weather patterns, is needed. If this is not adopted, where prolonged wet weather prevents slurry spreading, farmers entering the closed period will have full slurry storage. A flexible approach will ensure the well-being of the environment and optimum for productivity.
Worryingly, this is just one of the many major concerns about the Welsh Government pan-Wales NVZ proposals. The FUW continues to fight against the proposals.