Nitrate Vulnerable Zones could be extended to cover 70% of England if government proposals on water quality are adopted.
The proposals are included within one of three DEFRA consultations on water quality.
The three consultations cover
- Revisions to the Code of Good Agricultural Practice which will provide the base line of protection for waters from nitrate and phosphate pollution
- The Nitrates Directive consultation setting out the need for extending Nitrate Vulnerable Zones
- The Diffuse Pollution from Agriculture consultation dealing with other pollutants which considers a range of measures to control water quality from a supportive approach to a regulatory one
“Diffuse pollution gets into water from a number of different sources and, though each contribution is minimal, collectively there is a negative effect on water quality and the water environment,” a DEFRA spokeswoman said.
“The documents have been published together because they all deal with diffuse water pollution from agriculture.
“Each has a role in shaping future policy in England and we are inviting views from all concerned,” the spokeswoman added.
The NFU has wasted no time and responded immediately to DEFRA’s call.
The union spelled out the potential impact on farm businesses that an extension to Nitrate Vulnerable Zone area would have and questioned the justification for an increase in area..
“The increase might be justified if the measures were likely to produce an improvement in water quality proportionate to the huge costs, estimated by DEFRA at up to £48m a year,” a spokesman said.
“Farmers would need to have five to six months of slurry storage which would impact particularly heavily on the dairy sector, costing tens of thousands of pounds for each farm,” the NFU added.
“There is no justification for such a draconian approach against a background of falling nitrate levels in rivers, and a continuing dispute over the science underpinning the EU Nitrates Directive,” it said.
The three consultation documents can be read here