Farmers express dismay at all-Wales NVZ proposal

The 1 January proposals would see 'severe restrictions' placed on farmers' businesses, NFU Cymru says
The 1 January proposals would see 'severe restrictions' placed on farmers' businesses, NFU Cymru says

Welsh farmers have expressed dismay over the Welsh government's plans to introduce an all-Wales Nitrate Vulnerable Zone (NVZ) from 1 January.

Concerns have been raised that over the last 12 months Welsh government has provided no further detail of the new regulations that farmers will be expected to comply with soon.

NVZs are areas within Wales that contain surface water or groundwater that is susceptible to nitrate pollution from agricultural activities.

The Welsh government is responsible for maintaining and improving the quality of the aquatic environment, and carries out a review of the zone's areas every four years.

NFU Cymru, one of the main groups opposed to the plans, said the proposals would see 'severe restrictions placed on every farming business in Wales'.

These include slurry storage requirements, limiting the periods during which farmers can apply slurry onto their land as well as preparing detailed plans and recording keeping which will be subject to inspection.

During a recent union meeting, farmers raised serious concerns about the openness and transparency of Welsh government’s approach in line with its obligations.

NFU Cymru rural affairs board chairman Hedd Pugh said: “All involved within the industry will know that Welsh farming is currently operating in a period of profound Brexit uncertainty.

“That Welsh government has opted to compound this uncertainty through its lack of openness about new regulations, and has been a source of significant concern to our members - contributing considerably to current levels of stress and anxiety

“In fact, any farmer seeking out information on the detail of the new regulations would be hard pressed to find anything from Welsh government.

“This has impacted severely on the ability of farmers to understand or take steps to prepare for the draconian new requirements.”

The union said it has submitted over 100 pages of evidence to the Welsh government which claims that a whole territory NVZ approach would not deliver water quality improvements.

Mr Pugh added: “There can be no doubt that the threat of whole territory NVZ is weighing very heavily on farmers’ minds.

“Welsh government must not proceed on the false assumption that whole territory NVZ will be effective in improving water quality.

“NFU Cymru remains committed to working with all those with an interest in water quality to develop a proportionate framework that supports farmers to take action to improve water quality where it is needed.”

But the Welsh government said in a statement that its proposed measures 'replicate basic good practice measures focused on nutrient management.'

“Agricultural pollution is damaging the environment and the reputation of Welsh farming.

“The regulations will be part of a suite of measures needed to address this issue,” the statement said.