Plaid Cymru hails ‘significant victory’ over NVZ changes
Plaid Cymru has welcomed changes to the Welsh Governments ‘draconian and disproportionate’ water regulations.
The regulations to limit the nitrogen load on Welsh farmland were highly contentious and had been strongly opposed by the farming community due to their financial impact on farmers, and because of the unintended consequences of farming by calendar, rather than by season.
Through its co-operation agreement with the Welsh Government and following discussions with the Rural Affairs Minister, Lesley Griffiths yesterday (11 November) announced changes to the Water Resources Regulations 2021.
The minister confirmed the whole farm nitrogen limit from livestock manure of 170kg per hectare will be delayed until 1 January.
Plans to bring forward amendments to the Water Resources (Control of Agricultural Pollution) (Wales) Regulations to implement an Enhanced Nutrient Management Approach will be put back from 1 January to 31 December 2024.
She also announced that where nutrient management plans for 2024 indicate the 170kg limit is likely to be exceeded, farmers must notify NRW by 31 March and undertake additional actions consistent with the proposed licence conditions they consulted upon.
Plaid Cymru’s spokesperson for rural affairs, Llyr Gruffydd MS, described the changes as a “significant victory”, adding: “From day one, we have consistently argued that whilst action is required to protect water quality, the original measures put forward were draconian and disproportionate. That’s why I led a debate in the Senedd to rescind the regulations back in 2021.
“We have since then urged the Government to adopt a more sophisticated approach to tackle the problem, using new technology and innovation, rather than a crude one-size-fits-all farming by calendar approach.
“Our co-operation agreement with the Welsh Government included a commitment to introduce a more targeted approach and today’s announcement will give farmers greater flexibility and offer some respite.
“This commonsense approach will now allow the opportunity to further develop maturing technological opportunities such as those being developed at Gelli Aur College. My hope is that these and other alternative approaches can be implemented in time.”
FUW President Ian Rickman said: “We welcome the efforts made by the Welsh Government as part of the co-operation agreement with Plaid Cymru to introduce a higher nitrogen limit for next year following consultation which received more than 1,500 responses.
“In our response we outlined how the proposals for a scheme to allow for a higher limit could serve as a significant safety net for a number of farmers in Wales in the short term who are already exceeding the 170kg limit.
“However, we also expressed major concerns in relation to the proposed criteria and requirements and how this would effectively determine how many farms would be eligible for such a scheme.”
Mr Rickman continued: “Whilst we welcome this simpler approach which avoids a bureaucratic application process and further uncertainty for those wishing to apply, we now call on the Welsh Government to provide clear guidance as soon as possible setting out further actions farmers will have to undertake and what evidence they will be expected to provide.
“The need for a third delay of the whole farm nitrogen limit, as welcomed as it is, is symptomatic of the poorly thought out regulations which were introduced in the first place.
“We sincerely hope the Welsh Government begins the process of reviewing the regulations sooner rather than later, to include the consideration of a permanent higher nitrogen limit and alternatives to the closed periods, so that long term clarity can be provided to the Welsh agricultural sector.”
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