Welsh ammonia emissions clampdown: What it means for farmers


New funding on Welsh livestock farms might be considerably curtailed with the Welsh authorities planning stricter controls on ammonia emissions from as early as January 2021.

Currently, solely intensive farms and people 5km from delicate habitats face strict environmental scrutiny on any dangerous gasses generated by new developments.

See additionally: Ways to scale back farm ammonia emissions earlier than regulation is available in

But below new steering proposed by Natural Resources Wales (NRW), most livestock farms searching for planning permission for developments, starting from slurry shops and cattle housing to poultry sheds, would want to show that the ammonia these would generate wouldn’t overload current background ranges.

If farmers can not fulfill NRW that their improvement wouldn’t hurt delicate species and habitats, the federal government physique says it will object to the planning utility or, for large-scale poultry and pig models, refuse to subject an environmental allow.

Threat to farming

NFU Cymru sees the revised steering as an enormous menace to productive farming in Wales, however NRW says it is required to assist obtain a secure and sustainable future for Welsh agriculture.

The union’s deputy president Aled Jones believes suckler manufacturing is particularly susceptible, with simply over 35% of Welsh herds having fewer than 10 cows.

“The manure stored during winter months from these small herds is often the sole source of nutrients applied to grow the following winter’s forage requirement of both the cows and sheep,” he says.

“If there is even a small challenge to these businesses from legislation, I fear the temptation to be rid of the cows would be too much.”

Bad timing

Farming leaders say they aren’t questioning a have to deal with the difficulty – round 88% of the UK’s annual emissions come from agriculture – however they’re indignant on the timing.

The 12-week session, which is because of shut on 31 August, has been launched at a time when the trade is below stress from the Covid-19 pandemic and unions are concerned in brokering necessary post-Brexit commerce offers, says Mr Jones.

He insists that the timing of the session couldn’t have been worse.

“We are not dodging the conversation, and wish to give a broad and considered response, but presently Covid-19 and Brexit do not allow this to happen,” he says.

“Over the subsequent six months, we have to consider what commerce requirements UK farmers should adhere to, what markets shall be open to us with the spanner of Covid-19 to navigate our means round.

“There seems to be a headlong rush to bring in more legislation without a responsible, diligent assessment of the implications.”

NFU Cymru is urging NRW to delay the session till early subsequent yr.


A press release from the Welsh authorities says anybody who’s having difficulties responding to the session throughout the timescale ought to contact NRW to “discuss how their participation can be accommodated”.

“We know we need to do more as a country to understand and address the cumulative impacts of agricultural ammonia and nitrogen emissions, so it is right NRW explores this issue to see whether its operational procedures need to be updated.”

What are the proposals?

Farms positioned close to to any species that may’t tolerate excessive ranges of nitrogen or ammonia would want to evaluate and exhibit that the extent of ammonia generated by a brand new livestock improvement, manure or slurry retailer or an anaerobic digestion plant wouldn’t be dangerous.

Since October 2017, solely developments nearer than 5km to delicate websites have wanted an in depth evaluation.

But NRW is proposing to alter that by rising the screening distance to 10km for giant cattle, pig and poultry developments and for anaerobic digesters and enormous slurry shops.

NRW means that that is wanted as a result of in some areas of Wales the quantity of ammonia and nitrogen is already at, or above, dangerous ranges.

“This guidance is designed to ensure that detailed modelling is carried out where needed and that a safe ammonia level is not exceeded at sensitive sites,” it says in its session doc.

Detailed modelling could be wanted if the background stage of ammonia is already at a stage deemed as important.

Existing steering applies solely to developments in vary of designated websites similar to Special Areas of Conservation and Sites of Special Scientific Interest.

But NRW says it has proof of areas outdoors these websites the place species delicate to excessive ranges of ammonia and nitrogen develop and plans to incorporate its personal map of areas within the new steering.

It anticipates publishing the ultimate revised steering in January 2021.

What would the brand new guidelines apply to?

Under the proposals, a variety of recent screening distances could be utilized to developments in several livestock sectors.

For every of those, an influence evaluation would want to accompany planning and environmental allow functions.

NRW says the screening course of is “deliberately conservative” to ensure that the place there’s a threat of hurt, detailed modelling is carried out.


  • 3km Up to 32,000 layers with manure elimination expertise, and chick manufacturing
  • 5km Up to 60,000 animal locations for broilers, layers, pullets, sport birds or 500 sq m of flooring area
  • 10km More than 60,000 animal locations for all different poultry, or 500 sq m of flooring area

Cattle and pigs

  • 10km More than 500 sq m of flooring area for cattle and pigs


  • 5km For slurry and manure shops as much as 4,000 sq m
  • 10km Slurry and manure shops over 4,000 sq m and anaerobic digestors

Had the brand new emissions steering been in place when Llyr Jones diversified into free-range egg manufacturing in 2017, he believes he’s impossible to have secured planning permission for his poultry housing.

He established a 16,000-bird unit as a result of his suckler beef herd was shedding cash and he wished to place the enterprise on a sound footing for the long run.

Mr Jones reduce suckler cow numbers from 50 to eight and created a free-range egg unit at Derwydd, close to Llanfihangel Glyn Myfyr, Ruthin.

When the shed was constructed, emissions screening was not required.

He is now within the strategy of searching for approval for a second 16,000-hen shed and has already spent £4,000 on ammonia mapping.

Mr Jones says administration modifications, similar to mucking out hens every single day, have been proven to scale back ammonia emissions, however he says NRW received’t enable these in predicted emissions calculations.

To comply, he should as a substitute spend £60,000 on an air scrubber.

“By mucking out hens every single day as a substitute of each different day, we will scale back ammonia ranges by 20% and we will make additional reductions by retaining litter dry, by having concrete aprons across the popholes and by planting timber.

“These are all low-cost, natural measures compared to an air scrubber, which is costly and uses chemicals because it forces air through a shower of sulphuric acid.”

Mr Jones reckons that the proposed new steering would have put a halt to his plans to diversify into egg manufacturing.

“If Welsh farmers are prevented from creating new amenities to develop their companies to provide meals, supermarkets will import meals from nations the place guidelines are much less stringent. This is already occurring with eggs,’’ he says.

Mr Jones, a member of NFU Cymru’s rural affairs board and its Next Generation group, says he helps a necessity for farmers like him to take their environmental duties critically.

“I inherited this farm and I want to pass it on to my children in the best possible environmental position; I couldn’t sleep at night if I knew I was polluting the local area,” he says.

“But what I am not happy with is NRW’s refusal to accept in emissions calculations low-cost options that can easily be worked into the day-to-day management of a farm.”