Sympathy on slurry problem
Farmers in nitrate vulnerable zones in Dumfries and Galloway have been given more time to empty their slurry tanks.
The Scottish Government agreed to extend the deadline for emptying tanks to the end of November after concerns were raised that the never-ending rain was starting to seriously affect farmers.
The decision to grant leniency will be made on a case by case basis as to whether derogation will be granted to those who missed the original deadline.
In order to be accepted the farmer has to sign-up to five conditions at their local RPID area office.
The main conditions are that applications should only be made to land that is regarded as low risk and on fields that are flat or less than five per cent slope. They must not be known to be waterlogged at this time of year and have no watercourses or ditches as boundaries. All applications should be recorded in NVZ records.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Having listened to farmers’ concerns, we announced earlier this month that our RPID area offices would liaise with affected farmers on a case by case basis to help them explore all practical options, which might be available to address their current difficulties.
“As a direct result of this sympathetic approach and allowing for as much flexibility as the EU regulations allowed, 23 individual cases for extensions to slurry spreading in nitrate vulnerable zones have been granted, with another two being actively considered.
“While we are happy to continue to help affected farmers, we expect farmers and crofters to take every possible step to comply with the nitrate vulnerable zones legal requirements, which play a vital role in protecting our water quality and wider environment.”
National Farmers Union Scotland vice-president Gary Mitchell, who farms on the outskirts of Stranraer, signedup to the move. He said: “At last common sense has prevailed. Slurry is a valuable fertiliser and the whole issue of NVZ’s needs to be looked at.
“Rainfall records for Dumfries and Galloway are going higher and higher every year. Between 2006 and 2016 the figure has soared by 33 per cent.
“I also think it’s time we had an industry summit on the issue of slurry and that the government should take a close look at changing the NVZ rules given the weather conditions we are getting on a regular basis at this time of year.
South Scotland MSP Emma Harper, who recently suggested holding a weather summit, has also welcomed the news. She said: “Dumfries and Galloway has 48 per cent of Scotland’s dairy farms – and that means that a lot of slurry is created.
“The weather has been so wet which makes grass cutting for silage impossible and slurry cannot be spread as run-off can contaminate water courses.
“Of course, there is a good reason why these restrictions exist on NVZs – and the cabinet secretary has ordered a flexible approach consistent with the law.
“The Scottish Government is taking this issue very seriously indeed and the priority will be to help those farmers most in need by the local offices working with them on a case by case basis.”