I’M IN SEMI-RETIREMENT AND THIS BLOG IS WINDING DOWN. I INTEND CALLING IT A DAY SOON AFTER THIS YEAR’S SENEDD ELECTIONS. POSTINGS WILL NOW BE LESS FREQUENT AND I WILL NOT UNDERTAKE ANY MAJOR NEW INVESTIGATIONS. DIOLCH YN FAWR.
Specifically, this post is about Nitrate Vulnerable Zones (NVZ) legislation and the vote on March 3 that saw the ‘Welsh Government’ push through its draconian measures which are simply another attack on our farmers.
The fact that most of the pollution doesn’t even come from farms is not simply irrelevant to Labour politicians, it’s ignored completely.
To understand the bigger picture you must realise that the local branch of the British Labour Party is a statist outfit that wants to control everything and everybody, either directly, or else through its agencies in the third sector and elsewhere.
As the writer explains, Labour politicians don’t like farmers because farmers own land (kulaks, see), and they tend to be independently-minded, with a habit of standing up for themselves. What’s more, they’re adept at recognising bullshit.
So farmers have to go. This will be justified on environmental grounds. Freeing land for hippies, rewilders and foreign investors.
This control-freakery also explains why Wales is a basket-case economy. Labour does not want free-thinking indigenous entrepreneurs, even if they provide jobs and make Wales prosperous. Far better to keep Wales poor, blame somebody else, and keep getting elected.
The resultant poverty can also be justified with envirobollocks – ‘What ew mean ew got no job – look at all them wind turbines saving the planet. You selfish bugger!’
Well, of course, that’s not strictly true. Labour politicians and their third sector cronies will always have jobs. Enviroshysters – almost all of them from outside of Wales – will also have jobs. It’s ordinary Welsh people who lose out.
The message is simple. Don’t vote Labour in May’s Senedd elections. Don’t vote for Plaid Cymru either, because Labour will need a coalition with Plaid to stay in power.
Now read what our guest writer has to say . . .
So, in the last month or so, Lesley Griffiths, Minister for Environment has pushed on with legislation she said she would not push on with 11 times. This was on the basis that agricultural incidents had not decreased from the 3 a week figure that is regularly quoted. As of 3rd March, the regulations will now progress following the Senedd vote.
There are various figures banded around as to why this has been a trigger point and why such an aggressive move has been taken, in the middle (and it is the middle) of the COVID crisis and indeed the aftermath of the Brexit deal.
This is really a statement piece by the Minister to appeal to the environment lobby and her back benchers in the run up to an election. Facts, figures and advice on the regulation from her own regulator, NRW, have been ignored and politics has been front and centre of the decision. Where to go from here? We’ll come back to that a little later.
When it comes to Welsh Government, it’s worth taking a look back to see how things have developed.
Firstly, getting rid of scrutiny and the various committees that have provided review and direction has been a key strategy. The Climate Change, Environment and Rural Affairs (CCERA) Committee has to cover such a broad portfolio that it cannot possibly scrutinise in depth. The simple fact is that scrutiny is now a manufactured process, by invitation if you like, with the environment lobby in the pocket of the Minister, who are anti-agri, anti-fisheries and any other private use of natural resources for economic gain, unless you’re a global investor making a land grab under the guise of rewilding, but we won’t mention that.
Secondly, Welsh Government has struggled for years to work out how they could get their policy objectives imprinted on rural Wales. We’re now in the drive to reverse climate change, de-carbonise and promote Wales to the world as a sustainable nation. Farmers own 70% of our private land. The difficulty with trying to get farmers to comply with change is that they own their land and are a broadly militant and belligerent old bunch who would rather sell a kidney than be told what to do. So, in combination with the agriculture white paper out at the moment consulting on the future farm payments system, Minister Griffiths has slapped an NVZ on the whole of Wales to boot.
When you look at some of the drivers of food industry growth, Minister Griffiths own Food and Drink Strategy 2014 – 2020 has targeted increasing sales by 30% to £7bn turnover. Much rejoicing took place last year when it was proclaimed that Welsh Government had ‘smashed its target’. Now a new strategy needs to be developed and it will be based on ‘sustainability’. It should be remembered that Welsh Government has encouraged and invested in the agri-food sectors rapid growth and the question must be asked as to whether it is now a victim of its own success?
You see, if you want a snapshot example of what is in store for agriculture, you only need to look at what Welsh Government has done with another comparator sector over which they have devolved responsibility – fisheries.
A small sector in Wales, but nonetheless regularly rolled out by the Minister with unsubstantiated claims of sustainability for which she now strives. The vast majority of engagement mechanisms with the sector have been withdrawn, because, like farmers, fishermen are too difficult for Welsh Government to deal with.
Unlike agriculture, with land ownership in the hands of farmers, Welsh Government actually does have devolved responsibility for marine and fisheries and in layman’s terms, it owns the sea out to the median line. If there is an example of how not to sustainability management resources, this is it. Regulation, not management, is king, delivering boom and bust fisheries such as our main shellfish species by volume, Whelk, that is exploited largely by businesses outside of Wales. Now where have we heard this before…………oh yes, renewables.
Marine renewables is the Minister’s golden ticket to meeting green energy targets and no one will get in the way. While our many centuries old fishing industry and heritage fisheries such as Teifi Seine nets, coracles and the lave net fisheries on the Severn are regulated (for regulated read bullied) out, the push for action in the climate emergency continues. Fisheries is a shining example of how Welsh Government ‘manages’ its resources and should serve as a warning to what is to come for terrestrial Wales.
So the stage is set for the roll out of the NVZ agricultural pollution regulations that will sit alongside the consultation on the agriculture white paper and an announcement made with regard to the future strategy for the food and drink sector where sustainable food production will be at the core. All very nicely choreographed.
What is amazing in all of this is the almost pathological inability of the Minister to acknowledge the issues caused by sewage outfall and releases by water authorities. This has been documented by the BBC and most recent data provided by the Rivers Trust makes for dire reading. Her responses when questioned on this in Plenary have been evasive to say the least. She doesn’t want to talk about it. She has to get her way with the agri sector to line up the other policy objectives. A savage attack on the proposed regulations took place in the Senedd via a recent Conservative debate and again, while referring to a very recent incident and the ‘one too many’ quote, the reality is that statistically there could have well been another 82 sewage incidents going on the very same day!
I have no doubt that a number of MS’s who have voted on this will not have the foggiest what they are voting for, but will have been lobbied by the ‘bastard farmers’ environment crowd from their Cardiff and London bases. The perverse part of this is that in a drive for Wales to be perceived as one of the world’s most sustainable food producers, Minister Griffiths will designate the whole of the country an NVZ against the advice of her regulator and ignoring the main contributor to water quality issues. How does she think this looks from the outside looking in? We’re a laughing stock.
In sectors that have been under devolved regulation for many years such as fisheries, the Minister now talks about co-management out of regulation with a group they can’t engage with and then at the same time has rejected any suggestion of voluntary co-managed farmer-led approaches to agri pollution that were on the table to move to, yep, you’ve guessed it……..regulation. I would suggest her officials need a Zoom meeting to square the circle here.
This will be her modulation moment, akin to the decision made by Alun Davies to move 15% of the budget away from direct payments to Pillar 2 and just look at the success that has been, as highlighted by Wales Audit Office last year and further exposed by Craig Williams MP recently. I could also go into the uplands payments debacle but I won’t.
How the farming unions react to this will be key and a judicial review can be expected. However, there is a wider assault in the offing for rural Wales in the hot off the press Future Wales 2040 in the name of sustainability and climate change. It is a large document, but I would urge anyone who has an interest in the future of this country to read it and then decide how you will vote in May. Future Wales 2040 is the planning template for this country and where this blog has pointed out the follies of various ‘developers’ and ‘investors’, I’m certain we will see more of this to come, at scale.
Without wanting to overstate the position, we may be seeing the managed decline of industries in the same way the coal industry was portrayed – inefficient, dirty and unwanted by those who have never done a hard day’s work in their life. The Valleys have never recovered and now having failed to deliver on economic development, Welsh Government MUST deal with climate change, even if it means forcing through bad regulation to achieve it.
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