A farming family in North Wales says costly work to meet new anti-pollution regulations will "cripple the industry".

The rules, extended this year to cover the whole of Wales, mean farmers have to meet strict guidelines on water safety or risk breaking the law.

Farmers' unions have led calls opposing the expansion of the NVZ (Nitrate Vulnerable Zone) regulations to cover the entire country, including in areas where there were no existing problems with water pollution from agriculture.

The Welsh Government has defended the expansion as necessary, saying evidence showed pollution from poor practice was being seen across the whole of Wales.

The regulations are "vital" for sustainable food production and will be brought in via a phased approach, "providing time for farm businesses to adjust," a government spokesman said, during which time farmers are being offered financial support and guidance.

But this has not prevented criticism of the regulations. Leading members of the Farmers' Union of Wales (FUW) have called the new Wales-wide NVZ policy "wrong and disproportionate" and said they are opposed almost universally by Welsh farmers.

And another union, the National Farmers' Union (NFU Cymru) is launching a legal challenge against what it called the Welsh Government's "indiscriminate and punitive" decision to extend the NVZ boundaries to affect every farm in Wales, regardless of their track record with water safety.

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In Montgomeryshire, tenant farmer Bryan Jones said his family was struggling to work out how costly works to meet tougher rules on the storing and use of slurry and fertiliser could be paid for.

"We have never had a pollution incident here...but we still need to comply with these new regulations and carry out works at eye watering costs which will be in the region of £70,000," said Mr Jones, who has been a dairy farmer for 66 years. "Who is going to pay for that? 

“The landlords have refused and the bank won’t lend us the money to carry out work on a property we don’t own. I’m at my wits' end and fear that in three years time this could very well be the end of our farming life here."

Mr Jones said he had "no problem" with policies that punished polluters "but this is going to cripple the industry if nothing is changed".

The National Wales: Dairy-farming family (L-R) Susan, son Andrew, and Bryan Jones. Picture: FUWDairy-farming family (L-R) Susan, son Andrew, and Bryan Jones. Picture: FUW

His wife, Susan, said she feared for the livelihoods of farming families who were not in a financial situation to comply with the new rules.

She said there would be "far-reaching consequences" in rural Wales if farming businesses went under due to the regulations, which she called "a direct threat to our way of life, the rural economy and the safe, reliable and sustainable food supply".

Mrs Jones added: “The Welsh Government must consider the social and cultural impacts on rural communities given the implications these regulations will have on young farmers, tenants, and new entrants."

Responding to the concerns raised by the Joneses, a Welsh Government spokesman told The National the new regulations "are vital in providing clear baseline standards to protect Wales’ environment from pollution which will enable the industry to demonstrate the sustainable nature of food production".

He added: “The new regulations apply in phases, over three-and-a-half years, providing time for farm businesses to adjust to the new requirements. A number of measures replicate existing statutory requirements and standards, which many farms will already be implementing.

“During the implementation phase and beyond, the Welsh Government is providing financial assistance, advice and guidance, including through Farming Connect. This package of support includes specific advice for tenant farmers.”