Caernarfonshire farmer raises agricultural water pollution regulation concerns with local politicians

The Farmers’ Union of Wales has ensured that issues concerning changes to Nitrate Vulnerable Zones (NVZ) remain at the forefront of politician’s minds.

Arfon MP, Liz Saville-Roberts and Mabon ap Gwynfor MS grasped the opportunity to visit Chwilog farm Mur Clwt Lloer - farmed by Caernarfonshire FUW Chairman, John Hughes -   to see the potential issues first hand.

John farms the 75 hectare farm which is all laid out to pasture in partnership with his father William Hughes and wife, Sian. Currently, they raise 120 replacement dairy heifers for a large dairy herd nearby.

Under current NVZ regulations in other UK and EU Nations and previous regulations covering 2.4 % of land in Wales, farmers with more than 80% of their holding designated as grassland have the ability to apply for a derogation to increase the annual livestock manure nitrate whole farm limit from 170kg N per ha to 250kg N per ha.

Despite the same option being included in Welsh Government’s draft Water Resources (Control of Agricultural Pollution) (Wales) Regulations published in 2020, it was omitted before being laid in front of the Senedd in 2021 without any form of warning or explanation. 

If this isn’t addressed, John Hughes is resigned to having to reduce his stock to 80 head of cattle, with the catastrophic resulting drop in income.

FUW Caernarfonshire County Executive Officer Gwynedd Watkin said: “The proposed legislation means farmers will need to calculate their anticipated slurry management needs and ensure a minimum of five months’ storage to ensure that spreading only happens during the spring and summer months.

“The result is that farmers are forced to farm according to the calendar rather than the weather, and where these regulations have been implemented in Ireland problems are already appearing as farmers have no choice but to start spreading slurry at the same time resulting in serious run-off issues threatening nearby water courses”

John Hughes said: “We currently spread all our slurry to improve the land. These new developments would mean me having to de-stock by a third, and that was the key point I was trying to make to Liz Saville Roberts and Mabon ap Gwynfor. I really appreciate the opportunity to explain this to them first hand and they totally understood my concerns.”

The FUW has provided evidence to the Senedd as part of its review of the regulations clarifying why issues such as the omission of the 250kg derogation is just one of a vast array of severe problems inherent to the draconian regulations introduced by the previous Senedd.