FARMING organisations have reacted with anger and dismay to Welsh Government’s announcement introducing an NVZ designation across the whole of Wales at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.

NFU Cymru labelled the package to support farmers to adapt to such drastic changes as ‘woefully inadequate’.

The union said that given the gravity of the current Covid-19 pandemic and previous statements from the minister that she was not minded to act until the Covid crisis had come to an end, the industry will feel misled by the government’s u-turn.

The Farmers' Union of Wales described the measures as draconian and making a mockery of devolution by failing to address Welsh concerns and needs.

The legislation will mean the phasing across Wales of what are effectively EU rules currently in place in intensively farmed areas - designate the whole of Wales as an EU nitrate vulnerable zone (NVZ), an area more than 40 times bigger than the current Welsh NVZ area, and 11 times bigger than what was recommended by NRW.

Plaid Cymru’s shadow minister for the environment and rural affairs, Llyr Gruffydd MS, described it as ' the final breakdown in relationship between this Welsh Government and the agricultural

“This is just the latest example of the Government’s failure to work with the sector to co-design a more sustainable approach," he said.

NFU Cymru president John Davies said: “NFU Cymru is absolutely clear that an all-Wales NVZ is indiscriminate and punitive. It will affect every farmer, every sector and every area of Wales who will be subject to draconian record keeping, complex restrictions on the day-to-day running of their businesses and, for many, exorbitant costs."

He added: “NFU Cymru has never defended the status quo. We recognise that one pollution incident is one too many – we take our environmental responsibilities seriously."

The new Conservative candidate for Camarthen West and South Pembrokeshire, Samuel Kurtz, who grew up on a beef farm, says the move will punish farmers who are already facing difficulties as a result of the pandemic.

“The timing could not be worse. Imposing complex regulations and higher costs will be a real blow to an industry that is the backbone of Wales. Farmers deserve better. They need a government that will support them, not put obstacles in their way as they try to recover,” he said.

The Welsh Governement move comes as agricultural pollution incidents remain very high, averaging over three per week in the last three years.

Some of these have led to the contamination of drinking water sources and the destruction of plant and aquatic life in parts of Wales’ waterways.

Rural affairs minister Lesley Griffiths said the new regulations would ensure all farmers understood what actions they needed to take to join those who are already protecting Wales’ rich environment and managing animal manures responsibly.

Welsh Government has dedicated £1.5million to help farmers improve water quality and £11.5m of capital funding will be used to directly support farm businesses to improve nutrient management infrastructure.

This follows the Sustainable Production Grant scheme which supported over 500 farms with £22m of farm infrastructure investments up to September 2020.