Wales' new pollution rules may 'drive farmers out of business'

TFA Cymru fears an increase in costs for farmers following new regulations designed to stop pollution
TFA Cymru fears an increase in costs for farmers following new regulations designed to stop pollution

Tenant farmers have warned that new farm pollution regulations in Wales could drive some producers out of business due to increased costs.

The Welsh government will introduce a nitrate vulnerable zone (NVZ) designation across the whole of Wales in a move that has angered farming groups.

Agricultural pollution incidents 'remain very high' in Wales, according to Welsh government, averaging over three per week in the last three years.

While the vast majority of farms operate to high standards of pollution control, a minority of operators continue to flout the existing regulations.

But the Tenant Farmers Association in Wales (TFA Cymru) said Welsh government was using this as an 'excuse' to hit the whole of the industry with 'costly regulations'.

“Tarring the whole of the industry with the same brush is not appropriate," said Dennis Matheson, TFA Cymru chairman.

"Increasing the regulatory bar will do nothing to improve compliance amongst the small number of individuals who wilfully ignore the existing rules."

The tenant farming group said the Welsh government should instead be stepping up its enforcement of the existing rules.

It said the decision of Welsh government was also contrary to the recommendations of its own advisory panel.

The Pollution Subgroup of the Welsh Land Management Forum facilitated by Natural Resources Wales had argued for better enforcement and the promotion of good practice.

“As a member of the Pollution Subgroup it feels like we have been wasting our time meeting, discussing, debating and providing advice to government," said Mr Matheson.

"The government didn’t even have the decency to consult with the Subgroup before announcing its decision. This is not evidenced-based policy-making, it’s a knee-jerk reaction and completely wrongheaded."

TFA Cymru also raised fears that many tenant farmers may even struggle to meet the new requirements due to the constraints of their tenancy agreements.

The new all-Wales NVZ announcement contains no details about how Welsh government expects tenant farmers to comply.

"Tenants that meet opposition from their landlords could end up having to cease farming altogether, despite already operating to extremely high environmental standards. That surely cannot be right,” said Mr Matheson.

Initial 'good practice requirements' for the NVZ roll-out will be introduced from 1 April 2021, Welsh government has confirmed.