NRW’s price hikes are a barrier to new entrant food producers

As the deadline passed on 7 January for responses to Natural Resources Wales’ consultation on its Regulatory Fees and Charges, CLA Cymru responds.
Ewes on Welsh farm Dec 22

As the deadline has passed on 7 January for responses to Natural Resources Wales’ consultation on its Regulatory Fees and Charges, CLA Cymru responds.

“As farmers continue to be hit by high input costs and the market for Welsh food is affected by the cost-of-living crisis, Natural Resources Wales (NRW), the Welsh Government’s regulatory agency - urgently needs to reconsider any proposals put forward that will add even more costs to vital food production in Wales,” says Nigel Hollett, Director CLA Cymru, the organisation which represents farmers, land managers and rural businesses.

“These proposals seriously affect Welsh farmers’ competiveness and will inevitably influence both supply and the price of food on the supermarket shelves. These price-hikes open the door for low-cost importers – reducing Welsh farming jobs and increasing carbon food-miles, and also they will suppress development of our food-industry by acting as a barrier to entry into the sector.”

NRW’s 12 week consultation period which ends this week, sought views on its new charging proposals for permits under NRW’s responsibilities for industry regulation, waste management, water quality and resources and reservoir compliance.

“NRW plans dramatically to increase the cost of licences to carry out necessary and unavoidable operations on Welsh farms. For example, sheep-dip land-spreading costs are proposed to leap up to 20 times the current cost for a new application which will seriously discourage new entrants to the industry The dramatic increases come at a time when farms are hard hit by increasing fuel, fertiliser and feed costs while market-forces constantly drive-down supermarket shelf prices. Added to this, farmers face unprecedented uncertainty in how their industry will be supported by the Welsh Government’s Sustainable Farming Scheme in the future, the financial details of which are not expected till the end of this year at the earliest.”

“The fees cover the cost of licences to dispose of disease-preventing livestock treatments, abstraction of water, the handling of unavoidable by-products, and compliances. Farmers have few options about managing these at present, there’s little flexibility in the regulatory agency’s approach and no process for appeal.”

“We understand that responsible charges need to be made and they must reflect inflation. However where they’re dramatic and unprecedented, they need to be graduated and greater flexibility introduced to soften the blow for new entrants. Support is needed for businesses struggling with input-cost inflation.”

“It is highly irresponsible for an agency of the Welsh Government to put businesses at risk without properly considering cost savings and efficiencies in their processes to manage its own costs and we have expressed this directly to NRW in meetings prior to our consultation response.