New Regulations on Farm Pollution in Wales
17 June 2021
New controversial rules for the regulation of water pollution implemented by the Welsh Government have been both welcomed and rebuffed by environmental groups and farmers respectively across Wales. These regulations only relate to land located in Wales
Controversial or Essential Regulations?
In January of this year, the Welsh Government announced regulatory measures to address agricultural pollution. It deemed that the entirety of Wales is a “nitrate vulnerable zone”, whereas previously this figure was only around 2.4%. These regulations are known as The Water Resources (Control of Agricultural Pollution) (Wales) Regulations 2021.
An initial set of the regulations came into force from 1 April 2021 and apply to all farms across Wales. The remainder of the measurements will be phased on over a period of 3 years, to 1 January 2023 and 1 August 2024.
The regulations include requirements on protection of water from pollution related to the spread of fertilisers, manure and silage storage standards, and sustainable fertiliser applications. These have been hailed as a success by various environmental groups.
Senedd Members Step In!!
The Senedd held a vote in March on a motion that would scrap the divisive water pollution Regulations. This was narrowly defeated, and will have adverse effects on Welsh farmers.
Over 11,000 farmers across Wales and their unions came forward expressing their concern, frustration and feelings of betrayal at the new Regulations, arguing that it will have a devastating and detrimental effect on the farming industry.
Since then, Senedd members have (on Wednesday 9 June) called for a n urgent review of the Regulations, with multiple political parties joining forces to bring about “a review for common sense.”
The Welsh Government maintain that the Regulations are necessary to avoid further pollution incidences in Wales, of which there had been more than three per week in the last three years, and have announced a budget of £11m to assist farmers to comply with the Regulations. This is despite the Government’s own assessments revealing that the cost to farmers may be between £8m and £360m.
Farmers will need to make sure that the Regulations are followed, such as constructing adequate slurry storage and infrastructure. If found to be in breach of the Regulations, then the Natural Resources Wales Enforcement and Prosecution policy and procedures will apply. Possible penalties include advice on remedying a minor breach, legal notice, or prosecution and an unlimited fine if convicted at a Magistrates or Crown Court. Farmers claiming Basic Payment Scheme or any Rural Development Programme payments will also need to ensure that they comply with the Regulations, or risk deductions.
Farmers are therefore faced with the choice of funding the compliance with the Regulations, or risk the costs of the penalties.
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