Thousands of farmers to be removed from NVZ restrictions

AROUND 9,400 farm holdings in England will be de-designated as Nitrate Vulnerable Zones (NVZ) next year, as nitrate pollution levels fall.

With 2,700 holdings being brought into NVZs in England, the overall number of farmers caught up in onerous NVZ regulations in 2013 will fall by around 6,700 compared with this year.

Announcing changes to NVZ rules to take effect in England from January 2013, Farming Minister Jim Paice said: “The changes have been designed primarily to reduce water pollution, but this is also another opportunity to cut even more red tape and where possible help farmers save money.

“We listened to what farmers had to say and many of the new regulations directly reflect what the industry told us. When the regulations come in next year 6700 fewer farms will be affected by nitrate rules.”

Defra said the changes, outlined in detail on its website, reflect a ‘gradual, though clear downward trend in nitrate pollution over the last four years’ .

NVZs currently cover around 62 per cent of England but from 1 January 2013, this area will fall to 59 per cent as 9,400 holdings are de-designated against the 2,700 being brought into NVZs. A summary of the changes can be viewed here

Defra described the reductions as ‘good news’ as it represents the first time there has been a reduction in the extent of NVZs.

Defra announced on July 11, the day of the SOS Dairy summit in London, that it would continue to designate discrete NVZs and that it had rejected a proposal to designate the whole of England.

Today (August 28), it issued formal notices to all farmers who will be in an NVZ from next year. Farmers now have 28 days from today to appeal these designations.

Defra said it was also ‘pressing a strong case in Brussels’ for renewing the grassland derogation, which it said supports dairy farmers in particular.

Other parts of the package include:

  • Increasing the closed period for medium and heavy land by two weeks (to the end of January) in response to ‘strong new scientific evidence’. However, farmers will be able to apply manufactured fertiliser during these two weeks when conditions are suitable and a crop needs it. This will come into effect from 15 October 2013 for land already designated as NVZ, and from 15 October 2015 for land designated for the first time in 2013.
  • A small increase, from 1 January 2014, in the manure nitrogen efficiency values of cattle and pig slurry.
  • As announced on July 11, Defra is not removing the exemption for older stores in the Silage Slurry and Agricultural Fuel Oil Regulations 2010, but we will carry out a review of the Regulations with stakeholders.
  • In response to recommendations made by the Macdonald Farming Regulation Task Force, there will be an exemption from some record-keeping requirements for low intensity farms.

Farmers who have a full nutrient management plan will have a reduced chance of inspection, reflecting the Macdonald principle of earned recognition.

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