The Farmers’ Union of Wales has responded to the Welsh Government consultation on nutrient management: managing the application of livestock manures sustainably, highlighting that the scheme requirements need to be flexible and work for Welsh farmers in the long term.

The consultation proposed a licencing scheme similar to the European Union derogation system which would allow qualifying farm holdings to increase the annual holding nitrogen limit of 170kg per hectare to 250kg subject to certain conditions–a scheme which would serve as a safety net for those eligible farmers who are already above the 170kg limit where reducing stock numbers or buying/renting additional land are not viable options.

FUW Senior Policy and Communications Officer Gareth Parry said:“Major concerns remain in relation to the proposed criteria and requirements and how this will effectively determine how many farms will actually be eligible for the licensing scheme.

“For example, we believe that the 80% grassland requirement should be used as a guide rather than a statutory requirement in light of the latest Sustainable Farming Scheme proposals for habitat and tree cover, and it is vital that applications are considered on a case by case basis to ensure that those situated near designated areas or near water bodies which are failing to meet good status are not denied a licence due to pollution from other sources.”

The FUW continues to draw attention to the unintended consequences the 170kg limit alone will have on the ability of Welsh farmers to maintain food production levels, consequences of which have clearly not been seriously considered to date.

“If we take the recent analysis by AHDB and statistics from the derogation in Northern Ireland from 2019 into account, the proposals for a licensing scheme has the potential to reduce the estimated fall in Welsh milk production from 336 million litres (17%) to around 300 million litres (15%)–all things being equal.

“The Welsh Government must therefore seriously consider the responses to this consultation and take this opportunity to introduce an effective licensing scheme that works for farmers in Wales now that they are not bound by EU laws–it should also be introduced as a permanent part of the regulations and consider it as a tool which can be used to help maintain food security and tackle future challenges beyond 2025,” he added.

The FUW’s response emphasised how concerns surrounding the regulations apply to every farm holding in Wales to some extent and it is therefore vitally important that the Welsh Government considers the views on how certain licence conditions could mitigate the risk of direct and diffuse pollution in a way that they can be applied as part of the wider regulations across the whole of Wales.

Mr Parry added:“The Welsh Government must, at the earliest opportunity, consider and implement alternative measures which utilise technologies to allow for a shift away from prescribed storage requirements and fixed closed periods for slurry spreading for all Welsh farmers who must adhere to the regulations and not just for those few who are able to meet the application requirements of the licensing scheme.

“Until the Welsh Government uses the Regulation 45 mechanism to consider alternative technological solutions, considers the outcome of the Regulatory Impact Assessment of the 170kg limit and formally reviews the effectiveness of the regulations in April 2025, we urge the Government to delay the regulations set to be introduced next year so that we all know where we stand.”