The Farmers’ Union of Wales has welcomed a third delay to the introduction of a whole farm nitrogen limit and Welsh Government’s commitment to a higher nitrogen limit for next year.

The announcement by the Minister for Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths, confirmed the whole farm nitrogen limit from livestock manure of 170kg per hectare will be delayed until January 1 alongside plans to bring forward amendments to the Water Resources (Control of Agricultural Pollution) (Wales) Regulations to implement an Enhanced Nutrient Management Approach from January 1 to December 31 2024.

Responding to the statement, FUW President Ian Rickman said: “We welcome the efforts made by the Welsh Government as part of the co-operation agreement with Plaid Cymru to introduce a higher nitrogen limit for next year following consultation which received more than 1,500 responses.

“In our response we outlined how the proposals for a scheme to allow for a higher limit could serve as a significant safety net for a number of farmers in Wales in the short term who are already exceeding the 170kg limit.

“However, we also expressed major concerns in relation to the proposed criteria and requirements and how this would effectively determine how many farms would be eligible for such a scheme.”

The Minister confirmed that where nutrient management plans for 2024 indicate the 170kg limit is likely to be exceeded, farmers must notify NRW by March 31 and undertake additional actions consistent with the proposed licence conditions they consulted upon.

Mr Rickman added: “Whilst we welcome this simpler approach which avoids a bureaucratic application process and further uncertainty for those wishing to apply, we now call on the Welsh Government to provide clear guidance as soon as possible setting out further actions farmers will have to undertake and what evidence they will be expected to provide.

“The need for a third delay of the whole farm nitrogen limit, as welcomed as it is, is symptomatic of the poorly thought out regulations which were introduced in the first place. We sincerely hope the Welsh Government begins the process of reviewing the regulations sooner rather than later, to include the consideration of a permanent higher nitrogen limit and alternatives to the closed periods, so that long term clarity can be provided to the Welsh agricultural sector.”