Anti-pollution rules mean tenant farmers face having to spend thousands of pounds to upgrade farms which don’t belong to them.

Restrictions on farming practices under the Nitrate Vulnerable Zones (NVZ) Action Programme, introduced to reduce nitrogen losses from agriculture to water, were extended to cover approximately 70% of England on 1 January.

The NFU has warned that extended closed periods on fertiliser applications and significant capital investments in slurry storage would have a significant and adverse impact on large numbers of producers across the country.

“Quite simply, the rules are a bitter blow to farming sectors that can ill afford the additional cost.” said NFU Clitheroe group secretary Andrew Rothwell. “The fight to ease this impact must go on.”

Tenancy law expert Adam Winthrop, of chartered surveyors Windle Beech Winthrop, said the restrictions threatened to hit tenanted farm businesses particularly hard, with livestock producers among those worst hit.

Some producers – especially those who must build new slurry stores – faced especially steep costs, Mr Winthrop told an NFU meeting of about 60 farmers who gathered at Pendleton Village Hall, south-east Lancashire.

Lobbying by the NFU forced the government to drop some its more stringent proposals, saving the industry about £100m. DEFRA has given producers until 31 January to appeal if they feel their land has been wrongly designated as an NVZ.

Mr Rothwell said the NFU would continue to explore every avenue at its disposal to highlight the absurdness of the NVZ regulations and the adverse effects that they may have on farmers.

Appeals can only be made by landowners or occupiers. They will only be heard if there is evidence to demonstrate that farmland does not drain into nitrate-polluted water, or if the water in question has been wrongly identified as polluted.

New restrictions

  • Whole farm limit of 170kg/ha for nitrogen from livestock manures, which applies to all land
  • Longer closed periods for spreading organic manures applied to all soil types
  • Amended manure storage capacity requirements to reduce the risk of manures being spread in unsuitable conditions
  • Forward planning rules to ensure nitrogen applications from manures and fertilisers are more accurately directed to crop needs.