Environmental officers say controversial rules are in place to make 'positive changes' on farms

Environmental officers say they’ve visited over 800 Welsh dairy farms as part of a project to reduce agricultural pollution.

Staff at Natural Resources Wales are offering support to farmers to ensure they are complying with new Welsh Government legislation. 

Stricter rules were introduced in April 2021 to try and stop cattle slurry going into our rivers, but they’ve proven highly controversial. 

Stricter rules were introduced in April 2021 to try and stop cattle slurry going into our rivers, but they’ve proven highly controversial. 

The new regulations, which will be introduced in stages over the next three years, include strict periods in which spreading slurry is not allowed, upgrading storage facilities to a capacity of at least five months, and covering storage facilities to reduce the amount of rain that can fall on top of the slurry, which increases its volume. 

The aim of the regulations is to tackle agricultural pollution incidents - which, according to the Welsh Government, remain very high.

Andrew Fischer

At his family farm in St.Dogmaels, young farmer Andrew Fischer, 25, has welcomed the support from Natural Resources Wales.

To comply with the new legislation, his farm has invested in a new lagoon to store slurry.

He said, while it was a significant investment for the business, it was one that they could benefit from in the future.

"We were always going to have to do it, it's just we've decided to do it a bit sooner really", he said.

"I have been quoted £700 a tonne (for fertilisers), I can't put a figure on what we're saving now."

Andrew Fischer has welcomed the support from Natural Resources Wales.

He does admit though, that the regulations will be harder to implement for some farms.

"It's all well and good me saying yeah we've just dug two big pits but there are farms that can't, they might be of a slightly older generation and they're thinking of winding down anyway, well they don't want to spend that much on infrastructure now because in their eyes it's just a waste of money."

Amidst the backdrop of changing regulations, Natural Resources Wales officers like Chris Thomas say they're doing all they can to help farmers.

They say their aim is to visit every dairy farm in Wales to offer advice and guidance, and to ensure compliance.

Chris Thomas, Dairy Project Coordinator, Natural Resources Wales

Chris Thomas, Dairy Project Coordinator, of Natural Resources Wales, said: "Our dairy farm visits are quite often looked upon as something to be feared by farmers, but the visits are about us giving advice, guidance and helping farmers identify ways in which they can make positive changes on their farms, which doesn’t always mean having to spend a lot of money."

"Yes it's about making farms greener and more environmentally friendly, but it's also about making them more efficient."

"I think people will come to realise that this is a really efficient use of resources, and applying it at the right time of the year; spring, summer, is far better than applying it during the winter months when it's not going to be utilised fully."

Last year the Senedd voted for a review of the new rules, and a judicial review is currently underway.

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “It would be inappropriate to comment while legal proceedings are under way.”