Sym­pa­thy on slurry prob­lem

The Galloway News - - FARMING REVIEW - Jackie Grant

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.”

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