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Senedd Committee calls for changes to controversial water quality regulations

08 Jun 2022 3 minutes Read
Muck spreading. Photo by cons. maximus is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

A Senedd Committee has criticised the water quality regulations introduced by the Welsh Government last year and called for technological alternatives to be explored to protect Welsh rivers.

The new measures effectively make the whole of Wales a Nitrate Vulnerable Zone (NVZ) and introduced closed periods for slurry spreading every autumn.

Giving farmers exact dates when they can spread slurry is not the best way to protect our waterways according to the Economy, Trade and Rural Affairs committee.

The restrictions have been deemed old-fashioned by the committee and farming groups claim that technological advances could be more efficient, beneficial and cost effective.

Paul Davies, Chair of the Economy Trade and Rural Affairs Committee, said: “The current regulations amount to ‘farming by calendar’, and need to take account of the realities for Welsh farmers.

“The weather is critical when spreading vitally important slurry to improve crop yields, and we owe it to the farming community to make sure that we’re able to use the most up to date technology,

“This is a no-brainer. At a time when we have to balance tackling the climate emergency with issues of food security, we need to help farmers protect their livelihoods as well as protecting Welsh air and water quality standards.”

Improvements

The Welsh Government currently has to review the effectiveness of the Water Resources (Control of Agricultural Pollution) (Wales) regulations every four years, but the Committee is calling for improvements to be made much sooner.

Last July Members of the Senedd unanimously voted for the regulations to be reviewed by a Senedd Committee. However due to a legal challenge to the Regulations by NFU Cymru, the Committee’s work was delayed.

The review outlines ten recommendations to the Welsh Government for improvements to the regulations. Welsh Government’s response to the findings is expected in early September.

Over 10,000 farmers also sent emails to Senedd members last year, highlighting the financial impact of implementing the new regulations, which include the upgrading of slurry storage facilities to enable farms to have at least five months’ worth of slurry storage.

NFU Cymru estimates the regulations, which also impose three-month ban on slurry spreading every autumn to curb run-off from fields during wet months, created up-front costs of around £360m and ongoing yearly costs of £14m.

The Welsh government says the new rules are necessary to tackle river pollution and improve water quality in rivers and lakes.


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