Agricultural pollution – where are we now?

The data available for agricultural pollution incidents from January 2010 to February 2018 shows only 1 per cent of farms in Wales to have been recorded as having a substantiated pollution incident, but some of those attributed to farming were catastrophic, adding to existing pressures from members of the public, charities and other bodies to tighten up farming regulations.

Such pressure and a wave of adverse publicity led Rural Affairs Secretary Lesley Griffiths in November 2018 to describe the scale of agricultural pollution in Welsh rivers as “embarrassing” in an interview with BBC Wales, and to announce new regulations equating to the creation of an all-Wales Nitrate Vulnerable Zone (NVZ) – a designation normally only applied to the eU’s most polluted areas.

In recognition of the need to tackle agricultural pollution, the FUW has worked with others for decades to help address agricultural pollution in a proportionate and targeted way, with a large proportion of this work undertaken through the Welsh Land Management Forum (WLMF), which is chaired by Natural Resources Wales.

Following a consultation on the expansion of Wales’ Nitrate Vulnerable Zones and a request from Cabinet Secretary Lesley Griffiths, in April 2018 a sub-group of the Forum submitted a detailed report and 45 recommendations to the Cabinet Secretary.

Lesley Griffiths has neither met with the group nor responded to the recommendations, but in November announced an intention to bring forward legislation for the whole of Wales which is, to all intents and purposes, a cut-and-paste of the NVZ rules – increasing the number of Welsh farm holdings subject to costly and restrictive legislation from an estimated 600 to more than 24,000.

As the info-graphic to the right shows, the Welsh Government’s plans are out of all proportion and will indiscriminately hit farmers across Wales with costly restrictions and rules – rather than helping those in the areas where problems do exist.

Under current plans, legislation will be presented by the Welsh Government to the Welsh Assembly where Assembly Members will have the opportunity to discuss the legislation.

In order to draw attention to the wholly disproportionate nature of what is proposed by the Welsh Government, and why it should be stopped, the FUW has produced a postcard (see picture below) that farmers can send to their Assembly Members.

Many members will have filled out one of these postcards over the Single Application Form period, but if you have not done so and want to help stop the creation of a raft of heavy-handed regulations and an all-Wales NVZ, then please contact your FUW county office to obtain one of the postcards.

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