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NFU’s NVZ challenge fails



NFU Cymru’s judicial review of the Welsh Government’s decision to introduce new water quality regulations across the whole of Wales has been dismissed, following a judgment handed down last week.

The Judge, Sir Wynn Williams, found that the Welsh Government had not acted unlawfully in making the water quality regulations, having heard the parties’ arguments during a virtual hearing spread over three days towards the end of last year. In particular, the Judge concluded that farmers did not have a ‘legitimate expectation’ that an 80% grassland derogation that applies in England and Northern Ireland would be available to them under the regulations.

NFU-Cymru described the outcome as an “incredibly disappointing result for Welsh farmers as it means that the new water quality regulations, which came into force across Wales on 1st April 2021, will remain in place in their current form.” NFU Cymru believes that these regulations are unworkable and pose a significant threat to the economic viability of Welsh farming, the overall impact of which cannot be underestimated. NFU argue the regulations make the whole of Wales an NVZ, attracting disproportionate requirements which will be detrimental to the whole farming sector.

NFU Cymru President Aled Jones said: “I am obviously very disappointed with today’s judgment, but I am proud that NFU Cymru has been able to stand up for all farmers across Wales to hold Welsh Government to account in its decision-making.

This case was not about seeking to ignore agricultural pollution incidents or trying to reduce environmental protection; it was about ensuring that when the government makes decisions that impact the Welsh farming industry, it does so based on a proper assessment and understanding of those impacts. 

“I hope that the arguments raised during this case will have made the Welsh Government take notice of the impact these regulations will have on Welsh farmers, and we will continue to look for opportunities to find ways to reduce the burden on farmers.

“A good starting point would be for Welsh Government to increase the support offered to farmers in order to be able to comply with these regulations. Welsh farmers face having to find up-front costs of £360 million and ongoing yearly costs of £14 million a year. 

“The package of support to farmers to make these drastic changes is, in our view, woefully inadequate and I hope that Welsh Government will increase the existing funding available to support farmers in complying with the regulations. “Unfortunately, we are already aware of farming families leaving the industry as a direct consequence of the regulations.

“Despite the ultimate outcome of the case, I am extremely proud of the leadership NFU Cymru has shown in being the organisation to take on this legal challenge on behalf of the whole Welsh agricultural industry. “I would like to pay tribute to the dedication and expertise of NFU Cymru staff, the union’s in-house legal team, our legal panel firm JCP, Counsel at Essex Court Chambers and the NFU’s Legal Assistance Scheme in ensuring that the voice of Welsh farming was heard in the High Court.

”Although the Welsh Government promised to review the regulations following a series of knife-edge votes in the Senedd, it also kicked the review into the long grass by placing it way down its list of priorities for examination by Senedd Committees.Plaid Cymru’s spokesperson for agriculture and rural affairs, Mabon ap Gwynfor MS said: “This is a disappointing result for farmers in Wales. “But it doesn’t detract from the fact that questions have been rightly asked of these regulations. 

“Everybody wants to see water quality improve, and where people or businesses are found to be polluting water bodies then they should pay the price. “However, we believe that a blanket approach is not proportionate and will be counterproductive.

“It’s also a shame that the calls for derogation were dismissed, therefore putting farmers in Wales at a disadvantage to other farmers in the United Kingdom. “We’ll continue to work to try and find a more targeted approach to ensure that water pollution by the agricultural sector is tackled, and the sector as a whole is not penalised as a consequence of the actions of a few in certain areas.”

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Spotlight on ammonia reduction strategies for Welsh poultry producers



A WELSH study has refocused attention on strategies for reducing ammonia emissions in the poultry sector, with farmers urged to adopt measures including good ventilation and litter and manure management protocols to lower levels.

A three-year European Innovation Partnership (EIP) Wales trial on two broiler farms looked specifically at the role additives may have in reducing emissions by improving gut health and flock performance.

The study produced no evidence that these were effective for this purpose – similar levels of ammonia were recorded in the control and treatment houses.

But project manager Jason Gittins, technical director for livestock at ADAS, says there are a number of other measures that farmers can put in place to tackle emissions.

Ammonia is a component of urea, which is excreted in poultry faeces; when that manure is exposed to air and to moisture, the gas is released.

Agriculture is a major source of ammonia, accounting for 87% of UK emissions in 2019; of this, 14% came from poultry production.

“Ammonia gas is a harmful gas to both poultry and poultry workers and excessive nitrogen deposition resulting from ammonia emissions also damages the environment,’’ warns Mr Gittins.

Here, he gives his advice on how poultry farmers can reduce those emissions.


Poorly ventilated sheds will result in wet litter, which allows more ammonia to be released into the air. The use of effective ventilation to optimise the in-house environment, and preventing condensation can increase litter dry matter content and so reduce ammonia emissions.

Indirect heating systems heat the shed without the additional carbon dioxide and water vapour produced by direct gas heating systems, Mr Gittins explains.

“As a result, litter condition is often drier, which makes conditions less favourable for the production of ammonia,’’ he points out.

Ammonia scrubbing systems

These systems typically pass exhaust air from the house through a liquid to capture the ammonia; the air released to the atmosphere then has a lower ammonia content. Mr Gittins says reports have indicated that reductions in ammonia emissions of around 80% are possible using scrubbing systems, but the capital and operating costs are high.

Correct diet formulation

Diets should be formulated based on amino acid requirements, rather than crude protein, Mr Gittins advises.

“Diet formulation should change throughout the flock cycle to ensure that the nutrient supply is closely matched to the birds’ ammonia acid and other nutrient requirements.’’

Improvements in feed utilisation and feed conversion ratio (FCR) provide both environmental and financial benefits.

Correct removal and storage of soiled bedding

Manures should be contained in covered stores on impermeable surfaces. If field heaps are used, the surface area should be as small as possible: ‘A’ shaped, as this will reduce emissions, says Mr Gittins.

“A key issue is that wet poultry manure and litter can lead to higher emissions of ammonia and so the priority is to keep them as dry as possible, both during housing and afterwards.

“This can also increase its value per tonne as a fertiliser and reduce haulage costs and odour risks.’’

Manure applications should follow normal good practice, he adds.

“This should include avoiding spreading during frost, snow and heavy rain and taking account of soil conditions at the time.

“For liquid organic manures, precision spreading methods are preferable to splash-plate systems.’’

In free-range egg production, the move to multi-tier systems, rather than single-tier, is consistent with reducing ammonia, because of belt clean-out and frequent manure removal.

Preventing puddling around drinkers

Keeping litter dry is key to reducing ammonia levels. Drinkers should be managed to prevent spillages – any leaks need to be identified and quickly resolved.

“Nipple drinker systems should be adopted, as these allow better management of water intake and reduce water wastage,’’ Mr Gittins recommends.

High bird health

Keeping the health status of birds high will help to maintain litter in a drier condition.

“Birds challenged with disease and in poor health often produce wetter manure, which can result in higher ammonia emissions,’’ says Mr Gittins.

EIP Wales, which is delivered by Menter a Busnes, has received funding through the Welsh Government Rural Communities – Rural Development Programme 2014-2020, which is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the Welsh Government.

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Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society Board of Trustees ‘delighted to win Volunteering Award’



PEMBROKESHIRE Agricultural Society’s Board of Trustees were delighted to receive an award from PAVS (Pembrokeshire Association of Voluntary Services) recently for their determination to hold the county show last year.

PAVS formally presented the Trustee Award from the 2021 Pembrokeshire Volunteering Awards to the category winners, Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society, at the Society’s recent AGM.

The award judges were astounded by the determination of Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society’s Board of Trustees to put on last year’s two-day county show in incredibly challenging circumstances in order to give members of the rural community the chance to come together and showcase their animals.

The judges also noted how the Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society had ensured that support for farmers and their families was available through the presence of various charities who work to provide services for the rural community.

Lee Hind, Pembrokeshire Community Hub Manager, presented the award which was supported by South Hook LNG. He said, “Congratulations to Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society on winning this well-deserved award. As well as your determination to put on the two-day show last year the judges were particularly impressed by your innovative partnership with Connecting Realities which saw the event filmed and live streamed into care homes via YouTube, allowing access to those who were unable to leave their homes.”

Mike Davies, Chairman of Pembrokeshire Agricultural Society’s Board of Trustees said, “We are delighted that our efforts have been recognised by the judges who felt we were worthy winners of the Trustee Award. We have had to rely on the goodwill of our volunteers during the past two years and they have worked hard so the county showground can come back stronger in the future.”

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Red meat trade steady despite disruptions



NEW HMRC figures have shown how the international red meat trade is making slow but steady progress since the Brexit and Covid impacts of the extraordinary January of 2021, which saw disruption and delays at channel ports.

But as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine evolves and input costs for farmers and processors increase, the recovery process could be hindered again over the coming weeks. 

Data for January 2022 shows that beef exports and imports increased by 57% and 45% respectively on the artificially subdued figures of the same month last year, while trade in sheep meat trade saw a rise of 13% in both.

More pig meat has been shipped in and out of the UK too, with a 64% rise in exports and a 88% hike in imports.

Glesni Phillips, Data Analyst at Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) has analysed this information in the levy board’s latest Market Bulletin. She said: “The demand for red meat on the UK market has remained firm following changes in consumption habits during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Current export volumes remain significantly lower than pre-Brexit levels and the five-year average for January, for the sheep sector in particular, although the overall value of exports has held up well. The market is beginning to follow seasonal trends again, however, it is unclear when we will return to the normality of 2019.”

Despite not having a direct impact on market prices for livestock at present, the Russian invasion of Ukraine is already affecting trading patterns and product movement worldwide. Both nations are significant grain producers, and the two are major exporters of raw materials for the agricultural sector, including fuel and fertiliser.

Glesni added: “For some months, it’s been clear that strong lamb and beef prices – driven by high retail sales and tight supply – have been partially offset for many farmers by high input costs. Welsh livestock farms operate comparatively low-input systems in terms of feed and are aiming to be ever more so with sustainability in mind. But rising feed costs, alongside price rises in fertiliser, fuel and energy, are certain to have consequences for many businesses in all parts of the food supply chain.

“As inflation continues to rise, it is also difficult to forecast demand trends for red meat as consumers feel the squeeze on their household expenditure.”

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