NEW regulations covering the whole of Wales to protect water quality from agricultural pollution will be introduced next spring.

The Welsh Government has said the regulations will come into full force in January 2020 with transitional periods for some elements to allow farmers time to adapt and ensure compliance.

The regulations will include:

*Nutrient management planning;

*Sustainable fertiliser applications linked to the requirement of the crop;

*Protection of water from pollution related to when, where and how fertilisers are spread; and

*Manure storage standards.

Cabinet Secretary Lesley Griffiths noted there were already reports of poor practices being carried out in unsuitable weather conditions this winter, with the number of incidents this year already exceeding last year.

“Last year, I outlined my intention to introduce a whole Wales approach to tackling nitrate pollution. This year, we have seen an increase in the number of major polluting incidents, damaging both the environment and reputation of the agricultural industry," she said.

"Equally damaging, in the context of Brexit, is the impact such incidents have on the work underway on sustainable brand values for Welsh products.

“As winter approaches, I am receiving reports of further incidents and of slurry spreading being carried out in unsuitable weather conditions. Not all slurry spreading is bad, but it must be done legally to avoid such destructive consequences.

“This poor practice is leaving many stretches of rivers devoid of fish. Our rural communities, which depend on tourism, angling and food industries, must be protected.

“I have carefully considered the need to balance regulatory measures, voluntary initiative and investment to address agricultural pollution.

“In the long-term, we will develop a regulatory baseline, informed by responses to the Brexit and our Land consultation. But in the short term, we must take action now to deal with these unacceptable levels of agricultural pollution."

She acknowledged that the regulations will replicate good practice which many farms are already implementing routinely – this must become the norm, she added.

NFU Cymru deputy president Aled Jones agreed that one agricultural pollution incident was one too many.

But he added efforts to address water quality issues arising from agriculture have consolidated around the NRW Wales land management forum sub-group on agricultural pollution.

He urged the Welsh Government to move forward with its proposals.

“NFU Cymru remains absolutely clear that the body of work produced by this expert group sets out the best possible blueprint for making progress," he said.

"NFU Cymru is clear regulation is just one tool in the box to drive positive outcomes for water quality. We would be highly concerned if further regulation of the farming sector was progressed without progressing other aspects of the report in unison and without recognising the work of the sub group.

"We are hopeful that this group will now be tasked with this work so the right framework and an appropriate balance of regulation, investment support and voluntary measures are put in place that delivers for farming and the environment.”