The Farmers’ Union of Wales has expressed its bitter disappointment with Senedd Members who failed to support a motion to annul the Water Resources (Control of Agricultural Pollution) (Wales) Regulations 2021 after the motion was defeated by 30 votes to 27.
Responding to the news, FUW President Glyn Roberts said: “The decision to cut and paste outdated thirty year old EU legislation designed to tackle problems in intensively farmed areas, which has been shown to be ineffective and in many areas make matters worse, is itself a major concern for all those who understand the purpose of Welsh devolution.
"It is therefore an additional bitter blow to see a majority of Senedd members voting to support such a lazy, unimaginative and economically and environmentally damaging approach which makes a mockery of devolution and our desire to make Wales a better place.
“It marks the Welsh Government hitting rock-bottom on so many levels - not least in terms of misleading the Senedd by breaking the repeated promise not to bring forward legislation until after the coronavirus pandemic, and making false claims about agricultural pollution getting worse in recent years when incidences have fallen.”
Mr Roberts also accused the Welsh Government of misleading Senedd members during the debate by claiming the farming industry had failed to take action.
"We have been waiting for almost three years for the Welsh Government to get to work on tackling pollution in a targeted and effective way having worked alongside NRW and others since January 2017 on a detailed report containing 45 recommendations, which was given to Minister Lesley Griffiths in April 2018.
"As we pointed out to the Minister in a meeting only on Monday, the Welsh Government's response has effectively been radio silence."
Mr Roberts said it was therefore completely disingenuous for the Welsh Government to accuse the farming industry of failing to take action when they themselves have been the major obstacle to progress having basically been inactive and refused to engage with the reports authors over a three year period.
"Having done nothing for three years, the Welsh Government has taken the laziest most draconian action possible by copying decades old EU legislation aimed at intensively farmed areas where particular problems have been identified - despite most of Wales not coming close to satisfying these two criteria."
Mr Roberts said that equally cynical had been the Welsh Government's decision to prevent Senedd members from properly scrutinising the legislation by introducing it via the negative process - meaning it was not considered and amended as part of proper committee stages.
"The decision to deny Senedd members the right to fully scrutinise and improve such draconian Wales-wide legislation and to force it through in the middle of a pandemic reflects a reckless approach to our industry and environment, and it has been sad to witness so many members voting for such approach."
A scientific study of the impact of that legislation in areas designated as NVZs for between 12 and 15 years found that 69% showed no significant improvement in surface water concentrations after 15 years, and that 31% showed a significant worsening.
The Welsh Government’s Regulatory Impact Assessment states that they will cost Welsh farmers as much as £360 million in infrastructure costs alone.
“This is £99 million more than the Welsh Government's figure for the Total Income from Farming in Wales in 2019 and £120 million more than the total 2020 BPS budget - an average cost per Welsh holding of around £14,500 - a figure which rises to around £25,000 per holding when only those most likely to be acutely impacted are considered.
“Annual compliance costs running into hundreds or thousands of pounds per holding are on top of this,” said Mr Roberts.
To put this into context, he said that based on Wales’ GVA figures, if the Welsh Government was to present an equivalent infrastructure bill to Wales’ service sector it would come to £24 billion; and for the manufacturing sector the bill would be £5 billion.
"The repercussions of the legislation are huge, and it will be family farms, tenants and young and new entrants who will suffer the most, and large scale industrial farming which will be most able to absorb the costs.
"The FUW is therefore committed to fighting the regulations in any way possible, and will seek to ensure that the next Welsh Government replaces them with proportionate measures that target pollution without risking bringing the industry to its knees," said Mr Roberts.