By Debbie James

A legal challenge has been launched against new rules to limit the use of slurry and fertiliser on farmland in Wales.

NFU Cymru is taking on the Welsh Government in an attempt to overturn tough new water quality regulations that came into force on April 1.

The regulations will include nutrient management planning, sustainable fertiliser applications linked to the requirement of the crop, limits on when, where and how fertilisers are spread, and upgrading slurry storage facilities to ensure farmers can store slurry for at least five months of the year.

The Welsh Government has insisted that the changes are necessary to tackle serious incidents of water pollution and protect water quality from nitrate pollution.

But NFU Cymru says the government’s package of support to farmers to help make these drastic changes is woefully inadequate.

It estimates that farmers will have to collectively pay up-front costs of £360m which would force many small family farms out of business.

The union says the government failed to take into account the proposals and feedback from stakeholders so, along with its lawyers, legal panel firm JCP Solicitors, and with support from its legal assistance scheme, it is to ask the courts to look at these regulations to determine if they are reasonable or not.

NFU Cymru president John Davies says the union remained “fully committed” to looking after the environment. But it was convinced the regulations were not an effective way to achieve that.

“An all-Wales NVZ designation is indiscriminate and punitive,” Mr Davies says.

“It will affect every sector; every area of Wales and every farmer will be subject to draconian record-keeping and complex restrictions on the day-to-day running of their businesses for environmental benefits that appear to be quite small.”