Applications for grant aid to increase slurry storage and control farmyard pollution have slowed to a trickle, with most Northern Ireland livestock farmers still undecided whether to use the scheme.

Up to 45m of EU money has been made available, but to date only 328 applications have been received, claiming about 9m.

This is despite some 10,000 farmers having submitted letters of intent earlier in the year.

“Farmers have held back because, as yet, DARD has not finalised its nitrates action programme,” explained Ulster Farmers’ Union policy officer Aileen Smith.

“The minimum storage period of 22 weeks is not likely to change, but things like the treatment of out-wintered cattle will have a big influence.”

Details are some way off, as DARD has still not submitted its draft action programme to Brussels for approval.

But DARD has extended the deadline for the Farm Nutrient Management Scheme from 30 November, 2005 to 31 March, 2006.