8 Reasons why the Welsh Government should reverse the NVZ Regulations
The Welsh Government have introduced new agricultural pollution regulations. Llyr Gruffydd MS, Plaid Cymru’s Shadow Minister for the Environment and Rural Affairs has tabled a Senedd motion to repeal these regulations, which will be debated and voted upon on Wednesday 3rd March.
Nobody, least of all Plaid Cymru is denying that there is a problem that needs to be addressed when it comes to water pollution, but the answer that the Government are proposing is far-reaching, disproportionate and won’t work. Here are 8 reasons why the Government should reverse their decision to introduce these regulations.
1. BROKEN PROMISES
The Environment and Rural Affairs Minister promised no less than eleven times to Senedd Members that she would not introduce the regulations whilst we were in the middle of the pandemic. until we've got a clear understanding of the sector's ability to implement regulatory measures in light of the pandemic.
2. FAR REACHING
Natural Resources Wales has recommended that 8% of Wales should be placed within NVZs, up from the current 2%, targeting those areas of Wales where there are problems. The Government has ignored this expert recommendation and has gone for a 100% approach, impacting even those areas that haven't seen any cases of agricultural pollution over the past decade.
If you consider the level of agricultural pollution incidents to water, the trend across Wales has fallen. When you look at the cases year on year over the past three years, they're down 28% in that period. It is wrong to place an unreasonable burden on every farm in Wales and every acre of Welsh land, even where it is not an issue that causes concern. The Government should listen to the expert advice of Natural Resources Wales and introduce a more tailored and proportionate approach.
4. ENVIRONMENTAL CONSEQUENCES
There will be also unintended consequences for our environment as a result of these regulations. Using the calendar to spread slurry is an impractical proposition, and the Minister herself has acknowledged previously that she found it difficult to accept that that is the best approach. Weeks before the time where slurry spreading can't be done, and weeks after the closed period has come to an end, there will be huge spikes in the nitrate levels in land and water as every farm in Wales clears their stores simultaneously. That will create pollution problems even in areas where there are no pollution problems currently.
5. LACK OF FINANCIAL SUPPORT
The Government has claimed that the £11.5 million they are providing for farmers to respond to the new requirements outlined in the regulations is sufficient. Upon closer inspection however, this clearly does not provide adequate support to farming businesses. According to the Government's own estimates, that would just about cover the needs of Anglesey alone, let alone the rest of Wales. The low-cost-scenario estimates from the Welsh Government make it £109 million required, the high cost is £360 million, whilst the Government are providing only £11.5 million.
6. IMPACT FARM BUSINESSES
If that is all the support that is given, then that equates to less than £1,000 for every agricultural holding in Wales. For example. one farm has been quoted £300,000 to put in place appropriate infrastructure on the farm to meet the needs of these regulations. Sadly, there is no way that farms such as this could afford that investment, even if the Government were to contribute half the cost.
7. INCREASE INDUSTRIAL SCALE FARMING
These regulations will lead to more industrial scale dairy farming. The average dairy business will not be able to afford the extra land and infrastructure needed and will likely be taken over by large companies operating mega dairies that can afford to meet the requirements. Many environmental campaigners have rightly spoken out against large herds and ‘super dairies’ in the past, and it’s crucial that the implications of these regulations are fully understood.
8. UNDERMINE WELSH FARMING
This is just the latest in a series of decisions that will affect our rural communities in the coming years. The UK Government’s broken promise on farm funding will see us lose £137m next year. Add this to the proposals for Wales to emulate Conservative reforms in England, taking away any form of basic payment, this leaves our agricultural industry exposed to all sorts of challenges at a time when more than ever we need stability and security.