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Written Statement - New Good Agricultural and Environmental Condition (GAEC) Standard to introduce buffer zones alongside watercourses to tackle water pollution from agriculture.

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Alun Davies, Deputy Minister for Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and European Programmes

I wish to inform Assembly members that from 1 January 2012 all farmers in Wales who claim payments under the Single Payment Scheme will be prohibited from spreading inorganic fertilisers within 2 metres of the surface of a watercourse and manures within 10 metres of the surface of the watercourse. Application of manures will also be prohibited within 50 metres of boreholes, springs and wells. 

As part of the CAP Health Check agreement in 2008, EC Regulation 73/2009 requires all Member States to introduce by 1 January 2012, the new Good Agricultural and Environmental Condition to maintain buffer strips alongside watercourses to tackle the issue of water pollution from agriculture. The minimum requirement is to adopt the Nitrate Action Programme of no-spread zones for manure and fertiliser on all agricultural land (not just those within the Nitrate Vulnerable Zones). This requirement is compulsory but Member States have the option of applying additional measures to further reduce the risk of water pollution.

The Welsh Government consultation which closed on 1 September 2011 invited comments on which option was more appropriate for Wales. I have considered the responses to the consultation and, whilst recognising the importance of reducing pollution from agriculture, I have decided to implement only the minimum requirement for farmers in Wales.  I am of the view that any further management requirements that go beyond the minimum should be considered through the voluntary agri-environment programmes.

The measure will be introduced by an amendment to SI 2004/3280 – Common Agricultural Policy Single Payment and Support Schemes (Cross Compliance) (Wales) Regulations 2004 which will take effect from 1 January 2012.  A fact sheet setting out the requirements will be available to farmers at the Winter Fair and a Farmers Guide to Cross Compliance Factsheet will be issued to farmers in mid December. In addition, an article will feature in the November edition of Gwlad and a reminder will feature in subsequent issues.