Much Needed New Approach To Agricultural Regulation Delayed Again

Further delays to the implementation of the new agricultural regulations in Wales were announced by Welsh Government last week.

Tuesday 2nd May, 2023

On 27th January 2021 Lesley Griffiths, the Welsh Rural Affairs Minister, announced that the Water Resources (Control of pollution) (Wales) Regulations 2021 would be implemented from 1st April 2021.

The implementation of the Regulations is in three stages. Under regulation 4 there is an annual holding limit of 170 kg/hectare of nitrogen contained in organic manure which may be applied by animals or spread. Under regulation 5 there is an annual limit of 250 kg hectare per individual hectare. The provisions of sections 4 and 5 were to be effective from 1st January 2023.

The agricultural industry was concerned that, unlike in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, there was no grassland derogation allowing a holding limit of 250 kg/ hectare on holdings consisting of 80% grassland. In October 2022 Welsh Government launched a consultation on a proposal to introduce a licensing scheme which would allow an annual holding derogation from 170 kg/hectare to 250 kg/hectare. Under the scheme applicants would not only have to show that their holding consisted of 80% grassland but would have to demonstrate crop need as part of a nutrient management plan and that phosphorus requirements would also be taken into account. The scheme would run until 2025.

To allow for this consultation to take place, the implementation date for sections 4 and 5 was postponed until 30th April 2023. On 26th April 2023, a written statement by Leslie Griffiths announced that the implementation was to be postponed for a further six months to allow for consideration of responses to the consultation and to allow farmers time to prepare once the outcome is announced.

While disappointed with the announcement of a further postponement of the implementation of regulations 4 and 5 under part 2 of the Regulations, we recognise the need to consider the responses to the consultation and for farmers to prepare once the outcome is announced. Afonydd Cymru played a significant role in drafting the response submitted by Wales Environment Link (see below in “More Information”).

Problems of agricultural nutrient loss to water have been increasing since the late 1980s with the introduction of slurry based manure management systems, particularly in the dairy industry. These problems have been further highlighted by increased phosphorus loading caused by the poultry industry in Pembrokeshire and the Wye catchment. There is widespread public concern too about inappropriate sewage discharges which also adds to the overall nutrient loading into our rivers.

While we are concerned over the delay to the implementation of this scheme, we welcome the proposal to include the principle of licensing, the inclusion of phosphorus in nutrient management plans under the licensing scheme and the need to consider crop need before a licence can be granted.

We note that the proposed licensing scheme is to run until 2025 which leaves the question of whether the scheme is to be of short, isolated duration or whether it heralds a much needed new approach to agricultural regulation in Wales?

Posted: May 2, 2023