THE first out of a series of meetings aimed at tackling water pollution has been held by Farming Connect near Pendine on the Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire border.

Twenty-eight waterbodies in Wales have been identified as not reaching the required standards. These meetings are part of a wider, national campaign aimed at generating an industry commitment to eliminating pollution to demonstrate the high standards and reputation of Welsh farming.

The water sourced from Morfa Bychan borehole is used by Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water to supply drinking water to approximately 8,000 people in the area. In order to help protect this important borehole Farming Connect, which is funded through the Rural Development Programme 2014-2020, which is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the Welsh Government is offering a suite of services to help minimise the risk of agricultural pollution.

There is approximately 1100 ha of land in the Morfa Bychan Source Protection Zone, excluding forests and villages. Those farmers who attended the meeting are active managers of 991 ha of land.

“We are delighted with the response from the farming community”, said Carys Thomas, Farming Connect Regional Manager. “It shows that farmers are taking the issue seriously and are committed to improving the water quality in this area.

This meeting was in addition to the existing Agrisgôp group that has been established to create and implement an approach to protect and improve water quality and benefit farm businesses.”

Speaking at the event, Keith Owen, ADAS provided farmers with information and guidance on silage and slurry, storage and handling, the impact of rainwater and an overview of current legislation and future issues.

“A key message from Keith’s presentation was that small, often fairly low-cost improvements, can result in major economic and environmental benefits,” Carys explained.

“For example, broken gutters or downpipes are often over-looked or ignored on farms, but a broken downpipe on a typical 100m x 60m shed could mean 180 cubic meters of rainwater reaching your slurry pit, this equates to an extra 11 trips out with a 2000 gallon vacuum tanker to dispose of what was clean rainwater.”

Those who attended the meeting learned about the ways Farming Connect can support Welsh farmers to make positive changes. The Farming Connect Advisory Service can provide 80% funding for expert, independent, confidential and bespoke advice on soil and nutrient management planning, slurry and farmyard manure management and storage and farm infrastructure. Eligible businesses registered with Farming Connect can also access 100% funding (up to a maximum of €1500) as part of a group of 3 or more.

Planning Surgeries provided by Farming Connect allow farmers to discuss their planning queries with a planning expert for up to an hour, free of charge. This is an ideal opportunity to discuss planning issues specific to your farm and ensure that you are well informed and prepared before you approach your local planning authority.

Other Farming Connect support mechanisms include; a one-to-one mentoring service, where farmers can receive up to 22.5 hours of mentoring from another experienced farmer who has addressed issues and introduced novel solutions on their farm, the Sustainable Management Scheme support service, which provides groups of farmers with support to apply for financial support for a range of activities that will improve the management of our natural resources and EIP Wales, which offers financial support to groups with innovative ideas on how to tackle agricultural pollution.

For further information on the support available from Farming Connect to tackle this important issue, visit www.gov.wales/farmingconnect or contact the Farming Connect Service Centre on 08456 000 813.

Pic by Humphrey Bolton

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