A package of changes to what have been described as “unworkable’’ water quality regulations in Wales have been welcomed by the farming industry.

A staged introduction of The Water Resources (Control of Agricultural Pollution) (Wales) began in April 2021 with a 170kg/hectare (ha) nitrogen limit set to be imposed on farms from January 1, 2023.

This was one of the measures NFU Cymru had challenged in its judicial review of the pan-Wales NVZ regulations.

They feared it posed a significant threat to the economic viability of Welsh farming and there was a real prospect that many farms would need to destock to comply.

Although that review was dismissed, the Welsh Government has now announced a series of changes including delaying the annual farm nitrogen limit to April 1, 2023.

The government has also committed to carry out an assessment of the economic and environmental impact of the 170kg/ha limit.

A consultation will now be carried out on a scheme to run until 2025, allowing farm businesses to apply for a licence for a higher annual holding nitrogen limit of 250kg/ha.

This could deliver better water quality, alongside a thriving Welsh agricultural sector, according to NFU Cymru president Aled Jones.

He spoke of the long-running battle for change and thanked Plaid Cymru policymakers who had stepped in to help press farming’s case.

With the political party’s help, the union had managed to get the government to listen to its plea that the rules threatened the viability of farming and the wider supply chain, Mr Jones said.

FUW president Glyn Roberts also welcomed a rethink on what he described as an “unworkable’’ regulation.

He believes the proposed licensing regime would serve as a “significant safety net’’ for a number of farmers in Wales who are already above the 170kg limit.

“This is especially important where reducing stock numbers or buying or renting additional land are not viable options, and compliance with the 170kg limit will breach contracts or tenancy agreements, or compromise the ability to repay loans,’’ said Mr Roberts.

“However, this is just one regulation out of 46 set out in this piece of legislation and therefore we must consider the long term implications of these regulations as a whole for our members.”

An extra £20m of funding is also being made available to help farmers comply with the regulations.

The unions say it is crucial that this funding is used to support capital investment in farm infrastructure.

The government’s own impact assessment had highlighted a £360m upfront cost to comply with the regulations, Mr Jones pointed out.