The Farmers Union of Wales (FUW) Livestock and Hill Farming committees have urged the Welsh Government to make a U-turn on plans to introduce NVZ regulations across the whole of Wales.

Nitrate Vulnerable Zones (NVZs) are areas designated as being at risk from agricultural nitrate pollution.

Stockkeepers in one of the zones must follow a number of stricter rules surrounding the use of nitrogen fertiliser and slurry storage.

NVZs cover just 2.4% of the land in Wales. However, the new proposals could see the whole nation covered.

Speaking after a joint meeting of the two committees, FUW hill farming and marginal land committee chairman Rheinallt Hughes said the plans would be "disastrous" for the livestock industry.

“This was the first opportunity committee members had to consider the plans in detail, and there was a general air of disbelief that the Welsh Government want to introduce reams of restrictions, rules and paperwork for even our most remote and extensively farmed areas.”

Hughes said that farmers were only slowly becoming aware of the plans, and that anger was rising within the industry that such a draconian approach was being brought forward at a time when all the figures suggest Wales’ agriculture industry could be the worst affected by Brexit.

“The fact that such a draconian blanket approach is being planned goes against the Welsh Government's commitment in December 2017 to strike ‘the right balance of comprehensive regulatory measures, voluntary measures and investment’ and ‘...explore further options to provide land managers with flexibility, where these would achieve the same or better outcomes than a regulatory approach',” he added.

“The plans have, to all intents and purposes, failed to acknowledge the 114-page report and 45 recommendations aimed at tackling agricultural pollution submitted by industry and government bodies six months prior to the announcement.”

Hughes said that the rules would have far-reaching repercussions for livestock producers across Wales, and could result in a fall in Welsh beef production in particular due to increased costs and reductions in profitability.

“Tenant farmers at our joint meeting also highlighted the particular difficulties of complying with rules that would require a significant investment on tenanted land, not to mention the obstacles of having to seek planning permission.

If these plans go ahead we will see an increase in the number of Welsh farm holdings subject to costly and restrictive legislation from an estimated 600 to more than 24,000.

Committee members supported the FUW’s call for the plans to be abandoned, and for a proportionate and targeted approach based on balanced evidence to be adopted.