Monday 10th October, 2022
Written statement by Lesley Griffiths, Minister for Rural Affairs, on Water Resources (Control of Agricultural Pollution)(Wales) Regulations 2021.
On Wednesday 5th October 2022, Lesley Griffiths, the Minister for Rural Affairs, made a written statement in which she announced that she was delaying the implementation of the 170 kg/ha nitrogen limit under the regulations from January 1st 2023 to April 20231. This will be accompanied by a consultation this autumn on a licensing scheme whereby any farm business can apply for a licence for a higher annual holding nitrogen limit of 250kg/ha subject to crop need and other legal considerations.
Whilst Afonydd Cymru are disappointed with the implementation delay, we understand the reasons for it and the short delay adds legitimacy to the implementation process.
Our initial response to the potential increase in the holding limit from 170kg/ha to 250kg/ha is one of further disappointment as for some farms this would increase the likelihood of pollution of our watercourses. However, we give a cautious welcome to the potential of a licensing scheme to manage this process. If the licensing scheme proceeds it would be difficult to envisage a farm business being granted a licence if not compliant with all nutrient, manure and waste management legislation.
If the Minister’s decision is that the licensing scheme is to proceed then the inclusion of a crop need requirement is very welcome. We would ask that this requirement applies to all nutrients, recognizing that in addition to nitrogen many of our rivers are also currently failing under excessive phosphate application. One criticism of the 2021 Regulations has been that it works on a one size fits all basis. The licensing requirement will give each farm applying for a licence the opportunity to prove that it is not adding to an existing excess nutrient loading. It will also align the regulations with other commitments made by Welsh Government2,3.
As always, the success of these regulations is dependent upon enforcement of the regulations. This becomes paramount if a licensing scheme is to be implemented. The introduction of any licensing scheme will have resource implications for Natural Resources Wales and we would encourage Welsh Government and NRW to work together to make the resources available to ensure that any licensing scheme is effective in protecting the environment from pollution of water, land and air.