The FUW’s Livestock and Hill farming committees have described Welsh Government plans to introduce a pan-Wales ‘NVZ’ (Nitrate Vulnerable Zone) type regulations as "disastrous" for the livestock industry.

Speaking after a joint meeting of the two committees on Wednesday (February 22), FUW hill farming and marginal land committee chairman Rheinallt Hughes said: “This was the first opportunity committee members had to consider the plans in detail, and there was a general air of disbelief that the Welsh Government want to introduce reams of restrictions, rules and paperwork for even our most remote and extensively farmed areas.”

Mr Hughes said that farmers were only slowly becoming aware of the plans, and that anger was rising within the industry that such a draconian approach was being brought forward at a time when all the figures suggest Wales’ agriculture industry could be the worst affected by Brexit.

“The fact that such a draconian blanket approach is being planned goes against the Welsh Government's commitment in December 2017 to strike ‘the right balance of comprehensive regulatory measures, voluntary measures and investment’ and ‘...explore further options to provide land managers with flexibility, where these would achieve the same or better outcomes than a regulatory approach,’” said Mr Hughes.

Cabinet Secretary for Energy, Planning and Rural Affairs Lesley Griffiths announced the plans in a written statement in November last year, after which it became apparent that the majority of the plans had simply been 'cut-and-pasted’ from the Nitrate Vulnerable Zone (NVZ) rules currently affecting just 2.3 per cent of Wales.

“The plans have, to all intents and purposes, failed to acknowledge the 114 page report and 45 recommendations aimed at tackling agricultural pollution submitted by industry and government bodies six months prior to the announcement,” added Mr Hughes.

Mr Hughes said that the rules would have far-reaching repercussions for livestock producers across Wales, and could result in a fall in Welsh beef production in particular due to increased costs and reductions in profitability.

“Tenant farmers at our joint meeting also highlighted the particular difficulties of complying with rules that would require significant investment on tenanted land, not to mention the obstacles of having to seek planning permission," he said.

“If these plans go ahead we will see an increase in the number of Welsh farm holdings subject to costly and restrictive legislation from an estimated 600 to more than 24,000.”

Committee members supported the FUW’s call for the plans to be abandoned, and for a proportionate and targeted approach based on balanced evidence to be adopted.

“The FUW takes the need to tackle agricultural pollution extremely seriously, and will continue to fight to ensure this is done in a way which is both proportionate and targeted, and reflects the local and national evidence base."