By Debbie James

A Pembrokeshire dairy farmer has made a direct plea to the Welsh rural affairs minister to not impose NVZ-style closed periods on all farmland next year, insisting it would be a disaster for agriculture.

Roger Lewis, who milks a herd of high yielding Holstein Friesians at Poyerston Farm, near Pembroke, issued the appeal to Lesley Griffiths at NFU Cymru’s annual conference at Llandrindod Wells earlier this month.

Mr Lewis accused her of a personal “obsession’’ with introducing the most stringent form of regulation to control farm pollution from January 1, 2020, including controlling when slurry and other nutrients could be applied to farmland.

“We have had a lot of extreme wet weather in the last six weeks, half of which has fallen outside the closed period (for NVZs),’’ he told her.

“As farmers we farm by the conditions, not the calendar. These regulations would be a potential disaster.’’

The minister admitted to “concern’’ about the dates for the closed period in existing NVZs and her officials were reviewing this option.

For the first time, she hinted that there could be financial support farmers to become compliant with the new regulations.

Funding would however only be given for measures that raise pollution controls above the current legal requirement – Mrs Griffiths suggested that over 50 per cent of farms that had been inspected were not compliant with the minimum standards.

“I accept that it is going to cost and we are going to have to look at support but not to bring farms up to the legal level that they should be at already,’’ she said.

Mrs Griffiths told farmers she had been forced to take action on pollution to protect tourism and households with their own water supply, claiming that many rivers in Wales had become devoid of fish.

Although she accepted that dairy farms were likely to be the biggest contributor to farm pollution, she said she also needed to consider the cumulative impact of water contamination from other farming enterprises.

Mrs Griffiths gave an assurance that any new rules would be appropriate to the level of risk since they would apply to targeted activities.