NFU Cymru has expressed ‘profound disappointment’ on water regulation vote

NFU Cymru has expressed profound disappointment that a vote on a motion to annul all-Wales NVZ regulations was narrowly lost in the Senedd on March 3.

In responding to the vote, NFU Cymru president John Davies said: “My thanks go to the members of the Senedd who stood up for rural Wales today by voting to overturn these regulations and who, like NFU Cymru, believe that there is a better way to safeguard and improve water quality in Wales.

“I am deeply disappointed that the Welsh government, in the height of a global pandemic, has proceeded with a copy and paste into Welsh law of one of the most ineffective and criticised pieces of EU regulation.

I remain astounded why our government has totally ignored the 45 recommendations based on advice and guidance, voluntary approaches, investment support and smart regulation to improve water quality put forward in 2018 by an expert group chaired and resourced by its own regulator, Natural Resources Wales (NRW).

“I am disheartened that despite NFU Cymru taking forward and delivering a Water Standard that could form the blueprint to a farmer-led approach to nutrient management in Wales – a project designed and delivered in partnership with NRW and the industry, a project that was presented to the minister in March 2020 for approval – 12 months on we have still not even received a substantive response from the minister.

“It is clear that the Welsh government never had any intention to work in partnership, engage with the evidence or deliver bespoke Welsh-made policies to tackle water quality.”

Over 11,000 emails sent

Davies continued:

“I would also like to thank all those farmers who sent over 11,000 e-mails to their Members of the Senedd highlighting their concerns at the impact these regulations will have on their business and rural communities.

These numbers show the strength of feeling and deep anxiety that there is against this Welsh government decision.

“I am also grateful to businesses from across the food and farming supply chain who have supported us, businesses that know the impact that NVZs will have as the productive capacity of Welsh agriculture is threatened.

“It is just one of the many issues that the Welsh government has failed to appreciate or assess in coming to its decision.

“The levels of concern expressed mean that despite the outcome of today’s vote, this is an issue that we must continue to challenge and do our utmost to mitigate its impact on the Welsh food and farming sector.

“It is for this reason that we have instructed our legal team to explore a legal challenge against the Welsh government’s decision to introduce the regulations.

‘I cannot understand why’

“I cannot understand why the government has decided to proceed with these regulations without a grassland derogation,” he added.

They have so far announced no new funding to support the £360 million upfront investment costs that the Welsh government itself has estimated farmers will need to find to comply.

“The £11.5 million announced by the minister last month when she introduced these regulations is woefully inadequate.

“It’s not even new funding, having been previously announced in September 2020.

“Whilst we will continue to explore every avenue with the current government prior to the pre-election period, this issue will, I am sure, be one of the key matters that farmers will be raising with prospective Members of Senedd ahead of elections on May 6,” he concluded.