Farmers have described Welsh government plans to introduce a pan-Wales ‘NVZ’ type regulations as 'disastrous' for the sector, especially in light of Brexit uncertainty.
The regulations will come into force in January 2020 with transitional periods for some elements to allow farmers time to adapt and ensure compliance.
Rules will include measures such as nutrient management planning, sustainable fertiliser applications, protection of water from pollution and manure storage.
Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs Lesley Griffiths announced the plans in a written statement in November last year.
But the Farmers' Union of Wales (FUW) said the majority of the plans had simply ‘been cut-and-pasted’ from the Nitrate Vulnerable Zone (NVZ) rules currently affecting just 2.3% of Wales.
The FUW Milk and Dairy Produce Committee described the plans as 'outrageous'. Committee chairman Dai Miles said: “These plans will affect farms, especially the smaller family farms, who carry out good practise and will incur extra cost through no fault of their own.
“It is painting the whole industry with the same brush when actually there is only a small minority at fault.”
Mr Miles said that as farmers were becoming increasingly aware of the plans, anger was rising within the industry that a 'draconian approach' was being considered, especially at a time when figures suggest Wales’ agriculture industry could be the worst affected by Brexit.
“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,” he said.
Mr Miles added that the rules would have 'far-reaching repercussions' for dairy farmers across Wales, but could also result in a fall in Welsh beef production, in particular due to increased costs and reductions in profitability.
The FUW said that if the Welsh government plans go ahead there will be an increase in the number of Welsh farm holdings subject to legislation from an estimated 600 to more than 24,000.