Opposition unite against Welsh Government to force review of pollution rules for farmers
Plaid Cymru and the Conservatives jointly secured a review of pollution rules for farmers after a tied vote with the governing Labour party.
Some farmers have been concerned they will have to pay large sums to comply with the new Wales-wide nitrate vulnerable zone.
The new rules mean they will have to upgrade slurry facilities, cover them to reduce the amount of rain that can fall in, and face a ban on spreading slurry for some periods between August and January.
An initial vote on holding a review was tied 29-29, and was voted down by deputy presiding officer David Rees. Labour then amended the motion keeping the call for a review, which passed 58-0.
As a result of today’s vote a committee in the Welsh Parliament will now review The Water Resources (Control of Agricultural Pollution) (Wales) Regulations 2021 and present its recommendations to the Senedd.
Commenting after the vote, Brecon and Radnorshire MS, James Evans said that he had fulfilled an election promise to Brecon and Radnorshire to bring forward a debate on the NVZ regulations.
“Sadly, the Welsh Labour Government’s agricultural policies over the past few years have shown nothing but contempt for farmers and these draconian regulations will have a devastating impact on farms and livelihoods across rural Wales,” he said.
“We need a more flexible, evidence-based policy that secures the support of the industry, and we hope the relevant committee now performs their vital role in ensuring the best legislation possible is put through the Welsh Parliament.
“As we move out of the pandemic, it’s important we now move forward together to ensure our beautiful country not only maintains, but improves our high food and environmental standards, working with farmers not against them.”
‘Part of the solution’
Plaid Cymru Spokesperson for Agriculture and Rural Affairs Cefin Campbell MS said it was a “victory for common sense” and a “a victory for our farmers and unions and it is a victory for our rural communities”.
“We have heard time and again why the regulations as they stand are not acceptable. Not only were they rushed through recklessly by a Minister who promised, ten times no less, that they would not be introduced while Wales was still in a pandemic, they were introduced against the expert recommendation of Natural Resources Wales who said regulations should be introduced in the 8% most at-risk areas rather than on an all-Wales basis.
“Furthermore, the lack of financial support available to help farm businesses cope with the regulations would leave family farms severely affected. How on earth can the minister justify offering £11million in financial support, when the government’s own assessments suggest that the cost to farmers could be between £109million, and £360million?
“Welsh farmers are part of the solution, not part of the problem. Plaid Cymru believe it’s time for the Government to listen to them – and to the experts.
“It is time to look to the future by embracing technology to make far more accurate choices around land management – such as using weather stations on farms to measure soil temperature, leaf moisture, wind direction and rainfall – enabling farmers to make on-field decisions around slurry spreading, pesticide spraying or harvesting. This is far more scientific than farming by calendar, which is both impractical and outdated.
“Now is the time to work together to reach a consensus, and to come to a solution that will protect our environment from pollution and ensure the viability of farmers and communities in rural Wales over the years to come.”