Spreading slurry on a field© Tim Scrivener

One in eight Welsh farmers say they could quit farming if the government designates the whole of Wales as a nitrate-vulnerable zone (NVZ) in 2017.

The strong opposition to the plans was revealed in an NFU Cymru survey of farmers, which found 13% would consider leaving the industry if the “whole-territory” approach to NVZs is adopted.

Nearly three-quarters of farmers surveyed (73%) said they did not have sufficient slurry storage on their farm to meet the proposed NVZ requirements.

See also: Farmers angered by ‘all-Wales’ approach to NVZs

And on average it would cost nearly £80,000 for Welsh farmers to upgrade their slurry storage facilities to achieve NVZ slurry storage compliance.

Nearly 300 farmers from across Wales were surveyed about the costs and effects NVZ designation plans could have on their farm businesses and the wider rural community.

Farmer concerns

Farm leaders from NFU Cymru held a briefing with assembly members (AMs) and researchers at Ty Hywel in Cardiff Bay on Wednesday (14 December) to share farmers’ concerns about the NVZ proposals.

NFU Cymru president Stephen James said: “NFU Cymru is strongly opposed to the consultation proposals as the costs associated with the implementation vastly outweigh any benefits to water quality.

“The rules will reduce a farmer’s ability to make decisions based on their own knowledge of the land and the weather, leading to a ‘farming by calendar’ approach rather than assessing the conditions on the ground.”

See also: Farm contractor launches anti-NVZ petition

Mr James added: “Farmers play an important role in environment management and we want to help improve water quality – our survey shows 75% of those questioned would consider a voluntary approach to managing nitrate levels – but the fact remains these plans will be extremely damaging to the industry.”

Welsh government nitrate-vulnerable zone consultation

  • Two possibilities – increase the area of nitrate-vulnerable zones (NVZ) from 2.4% to 8%, or make all of Wales an NVZ
  • Closing date is 23 December
  • An announcement is likely in early 2017 on the new rules
  • New regulations would be rolled out in 2017

Mr James described the proposals as “overly prescriptive and unworkable”, saying they would have a “catastrophic effect on the farming industry and wider rural economy, as well as unintended consequences for the environment”.

The effects of designating the whole of Pembrokeshire as an NVZ could be enormous, NFU Cymru said. It estimates the proposals covering Milford Inner Waterway could hit 50% of Wales’ potato production and 25% of the country’s dairy production.

The Welsh government’s consultation on NVZs (PDF) closes in nine days, on 23 December.