Farmers have expressed shock at the Welsh government’s decision to publish draft regulations for an all-Wales Nitrate Vulnerable Zone during the coronavirus crisis.
As part of her Covid-19 response statement, Lesley Griffiths, Minister for Environment and Rural Affairs, said she is ‘minded to introduce the regulations once the crisis comes to an end’.
The rules would be introduced over a period to 'provide time for farmers to become familiar with the requirements and plan for any changes'.
But NFU Cymru said the draft regulations are ‘deeply concerning’ for Welsh farmers, adding that the timing of the announcement was ‘ill-judged and inconsiderate’.
NVZs are areas within Wales that contain surface water or groundwater susceptible to nitrate pollution from agricultural activities.
They are designed to improve water quality in rivers and lakes, but it would mean tougher restrictions on fertiliser and manure spreading.
Numerous industry groups in the country believe the all-Wales proposal would not be effective in delivering water quality improvements.
NFU Cymru, which has campaigned for months to halt the plans due to be enforced this year, said they would be highly damaging for farms and the wider economy.
"It is astonishing that Welsh government would think that the industry can spend time looking for these proposals on a website during a global health emergency," NFU Cymru President John Davies said.
“It is clear that Covid-19 has led to massive disruption in the supply chain for many sectors."
Describing the all-Wales NVZ plan as 'indiscriminate and punitive', Mr Davies said it would affect 'every farmer, every sector and every area of Wales'.
"Farmers will be subject to draconian record keeping, complex restrictions on the running of their businesses and, for many, exorbitant costs at a time when incomes do not support this level of investment," he added.
"We will pursue every avenue available to us and continue to work tirelessly with our members in the hope that we can prevent the introduction of this damaging and disproportionate regulation."
The Welsh government said it is 'considering the evidence and advice' and will make an announcement at the 'appropriate time' in light of the current coronavirus pandemic.