The National Farmers' Union Cymru (NFU Cymru) has come out to "strongly oppose" changes to the Natural Resources Wales’ (NRW) Ammonia Screening Guidance, arguing that the proposals "will have far reaching and damaging consequences for farm businesses".
NRW’s Ammonia Screening Guidance is aimed at providing guidance to farmers on how the regulator expects assessments of the impact of ammonia emissions from developments that emit ammonia to be carried out for permit and planning applications.
In the NRW consultation that closed earlier this week, the NRW proposed "sweeping new changes" including application of the guidance to all developments emitting ammonia.
Previously the guidance has been applied to intensive farming operations, as well as the requirement to prove "no harm" to ammonia-sensitive species outside designated sites.
NFU Cymru argued that the proposed changes to the guidance, if implemented, would result in many more developments being brought into the screening process with requirements to undertake detailed and costly assessments of the potential impact of ammonia and nitrogen.
The farmer association also highlighted that developments would be blocked where stringent tests of ‘no harm’ cannot be met.
The proposals are likely to have detrimental consequences on farmers wishing to develop, diversify and improve their environmental performance and achieve compliance with regulation in Wales moving forward.
NFU Cymru deputy president Aled Jones commented: "NRW’s proposed approach is likely to put constraints and limitations on farm development, threatening future viability at what is a critical time for the industry.
"We have expressed concern to NRW over their failure to consider the wider economic, environmental, social and cultural impacts of proposals on rural Wales. We are disappointed that NRW has failed to publish the costs and benefits of its proposed approach," Jones added.
He stressed that the appropriate practice was to consider the impact on business before policies are changed.
Perversely, the proposals, as they stand, will work directly against NRW’s own objectives of improving the environment.
"In effect, the proposed new Ammonia Screening Guidance is likely to place further barriers to new farm infrastructure projects on Welsh farms, including for replacement livestock housing and slurry/manure storage - even where this is required to achieve compliance with regulation," the NFU Cymru deputy president argued.
He also expressed disappointment that the consultation process, as he said, focused on livestock production, while not taking account of ammonia emissions from elsewhere.