A REPORT documenting ‘criminal lifestyles’ on three Carmarthenshire farms has been debated at the National Assembly for Wales.

An investigation by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism and The Guardian newspaper uncovered hidden figures on pollution from UK livestock farms and singled out three farms in Carmarthenshire where there was a persistent problem.

The investigation revealed that although serious incidents were a regular occurrence, farms might not be prosecuted – and may continue to receive public money.

At Senedd questions, Labour AM Joyce Watson said: “A recent investigation by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism and The Guardian suggests that some farms see the fines they incur as a result of polluting as part of the running cost of their business. If there’s any truth whatsoever in that, then those fines are clearly not working as a deterrent. And the other thing it found was that there was a persistent problem within some farms in Carmarthenshire.

“There have been between 70 and 118 incidents of slurry pollution entering Welsh rivers annually, more than one a week.

“The other thing that was found by that investigative journalism is that some of the NRW staff are being threatened.

“What action is the Welsh Government taking to ensure that the non-compliance by reoffending farms is thoroughly investigated?”

Logs from Natural Resources Wales, obtained as part of the investigation, show some farms flagged as ‘hostile’ – too risky for inspectors to visit on their own.

One inspector wrote: “Where we have ongoing non-compliance and penalties imposed are seen as a running cost, the traditional enforcement solutions have to be challenged... It seems that there are three farms in Carmarthenshire where the enforcement history could meet the definition of criminal lifestyle.”

Cabinet secretary for the environment and rural affairs Lesley Griffiths AM said: “There have been a number of significant agricultural pollution incidents in the past year, causing substantial damage, and I’ve made it clear these incidents are unacceptable.

“Whilst there have been a number of significant agricultural pollution incidents, they can be attributed to a very small percentage of agricultural holdings. Continual reoffending is not acceptable and fines should, of course, act as a deterrent rather than be seen as a running cost. And I think, in some cases, fines are simply not appropriate, and requiring farmers to remedy the damage that they’ve caused, I think, is often seen as a more acceptable way of limiting reoffending. Such matters are being taken forward by the land management sub-group on diffuse pollution.

"I’m also seeking views, you’ll be aware, through the sustainable management consultation of our natural resources. I’ve not been made aware of any NRW staff being threatened, but, again, it’s something I’m very happy to raise with NRW at my regular monthly meetings.”