Every Welsh farm could be hit by plans to extend the public rights of way network across all land in Wales, NFU Cymru has warned.
The union made the claim on 1 September in its formal response to a Welsh government consultation document which was published after a review of access and outdoor recreation laws.
The plans include removing some of the restrictions on the type of activities that can take place on rights of way and on access land.
The proposal causing the most concern is one that would allow access for so-called “responsible recreation”, such as walking, to all land.
The government is also considering allowing recreational activities in new areas and local authorities may be required to review their network of paths and access areas and link these using green corridors.
Carmarthenshire farmer Bernard Llewellyn, who chairs NFU Cymru’s rural affairs board, said farmers were right to be concerned about the impact increased access would have on the day-to-day running of their farm businesses.
“The Welsh countryside is a living, working environment – it is the farmers’ factory floor in fact – and there are risks relating to livestock, machinery, crop spraying activities, that all have to be managed,’’ said Mr Llewellyn.
“Increased access will also inevitably mean increased costs to farm businesses across Wales as a result of associated issues such as damage to crops, dog worrying and diseases such as neosporosis, which is carried by dogs and which causes abortion in cattle.’’
Despite a threefold increase in land accessible by right since 1998, there has been little change in the numbers of Welsh residents who take part in outdoor recreation; the figure has averaged 27% over this period.
“All the evidence suggests that simply providing access to all land in Wales will not deliver the outcomes Welsh government desires – it will, however, place unnecessary costs and burden on farmers,’’ Mr Llewellyn added.
Any new legislation would not be introduced ahead of the Welsh Assembly elections in May 2016.
The Countryside Access in Wales consultation was published on 10 July and is open for responses until 2 October.