What is the consultation?
The Welsh Government have introduced regulations, which apply to the whole of Wales, to address the significant and ongoing effect of agricultural pollution on the health and quality of our rivers, lakes and streams. Following this, the Senedd’s Economy, Trade and Rural Affairs Committee launched a consultation to scrutinise the Welsh Government’s new regulations to control agricultural pollution.
Why should nature-friendly farming be concerned?
Whilst there are countless examples of sustainable, nature-friendly farms in Wales, we must acknowledge that agricultural pollution is an issue that needs to be addressed. Agriculture pollution affects the environment, society and our economy. As an industry, we can’t put our heads in the sand when it comes to this issue. However, nature-friendly farming particularly farming within the natural productive carrying capacity of the land is key to addressing agricultural pollution.
What are the NFFN’s key recommendations?
A range of different interventions is required to ensure our natural resources are protected, maintained and enhanced. These will include policy support, capital investment, education, the provision of advice and clear guidance, regulation, monitoring and enforcement;
- It can be argued that the root cause of agricultural pollution stems from stocking densities that exceed the natural carrying capacity of the land. As such we should encourage herd sizes that are compatible with the natural productive carrying capacity of the land.
- We’re concerned that increased bureaucracy and compliance costs could lead to a reduction in extensive cattle grazing systems, particularly on hill/ upland farms where cattle can act as valuable conservation grazers.
- High Nature Value farming systems, characterized by extensive grazing systems, should receive priority funding support to help comply with regulation. Before we spend public money on increasing the slurry storage capacity of intensive farms, thought should be given to the size of the herd.
- We welcome requirements for increased nutrient management planning, which can help reduce poor practices such as over application, spreading on unsuitable land and during inappropriate weather.
- Regulation should be better targeted at repeat offenders, with heavier handed penalties given to those that blatantly or purposefully pollute. As such, enforcement must be sufficient to eradicate this practice and change behaviour.
We hope the committee shares our view on the importance of nature-friendly farming in addressing agricultural pollution. Future agricultural policy and regulation can play a big role in facilitating farming systems that operate within the natural productive carrying capacity of the land, whilst rewarding farmers for the associated environmental benefits. This will need to be combined with the provision of appropriate education, support and advice to farmers.