The Welsh Assembly is introducing new regulations covering the whole of Wales to protect water quality from agricultural pollution. The regulations will come into force in January 2020 with transitional periods for some elements to allow farmers time to adapt and ensure compliance.

The regulations will include the following measures:

  • nutrient management planning
  • sustainable fertiliser applications linked to the requirement of the crop
  • protection of water from pollution related to when, where and how fertilisers are spread
  • manure storage standards

There have already been reports of poor practices being carried out in unsuitable weather conditions this winter, with the number of incidents this year already exceeding last year.

Confirming the introduction of the new regulatory measures, Cabinet Secretary for Energy, Planning and Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths said:

“Last year, I outlined my intention to introduce a whole Wales approach to tackling nitrate pollution. This year, we have seen an increase in the number of major polluting incidents, damaging both the environment and reputation of the agricultural industry. Equally damaging, in the context of Brexit, is the impact such incidents have on the work underway on Sustainable Brand Values for Welsh Products.

“As winter approaches, I am receiving reports of further incidents and of slurry spreading being carried out in unsuitable weather conditions. Not all slurry spreading is bad, but it must be done legally to avoid such destructive consequences.

“This poor practice is leaving many stretches of rivers devoid of fish. Our rural communities, which depend on tourism, angling and food industries, must be protected.

“I have carefully considered the need to balance regulatory measures, voluntary initiative and investment to address agricultural pollution.

“In the long-term, we will develop a regulatory baseline, informed by responses to the Brexit and our Land consultation. But in the short term, we must take action now to deal with these unacceptable levels of agricultural pollution.

“The regulations will enable firm and consistent enforcement to be taken. The regulations will also ensure there are no barriers to trade of agricultural produce with the European Union following Brexit and help us meet national and international obligations on water quality.” Click here to read more 

Pity NRW – the Welsh Environment Agency have lost 35% of their resources since 2013 with calls for it to be scrapped.

The Angling Trust view – a cautious welcome – but must also address soil conservation

The Angling Trust has welcomed the Welsh Government’s announcement that it intends to introduce new regulations and enforcement to tackle the widespread and endemic pollution of rivers in Wales from agriculture. The announcement follows several years of campaigning by the Angling Trust and environmental groups in Wales to highlight the increasing problem of soil erosion and slurry pollution in arable and dairy farming areas.

However, the Angling Trust has identified three key areas of concern about the announcement.

  1. There is no mention of new regulations to prevent soil erosion; many rivers are being smothered in sediment as a result of poor soil management associated particularly with over-grazing, and with stubble turnip, maize and winter wheat crops;
  2. Resources for enforcement have been cut repeatedly over the past decade and there will need to be substantial investment in additional resources for the environmental regulator Natural Resources Wales if these new regulations are to have the desired effect;
  3. The new regulations will not be in place until January 2020 and will have transitional periods to allow farmers time to adapt, which may mean that the benefits will not be felt for several years and a number of rivers in Wales are already at risk of ecological collapse and local extinctions of salmon after decades of inaction.

The Angling Trust will be raising these concerns at a meeting with the Welsh Government’s Environment Minister Hannah Blythin later this month, along with several other issues threatening Welsh fish stocks and fishing.

Mark Lloyd, Chief Executive of the Angling Trust and Fish Legal said: “This is welcome news after years of us banging on the doors of Welsh Government to urge them to take urgent action to avert the environmental crisis on many Welsh rivers. We have several reports of angling clubs ceasing to exist because the rivers they once fished have become choked with sediment and excessive algal growth.

“We would like to see similar regulations introduced at the same time to stop soil erosion, which would also safeguard thousands of homes and businesses from flooding. New regulations only work if there is a credible threat of enforcement and so we will be pressing for additional resource to make this a reality as soon as possible.” Click here to read more

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