PIG FARMS with a capacity of more than 750 sows or 2,000 finishing pigs over 30kg will require an Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC) permit by 2007 under planned EU legislation.

It is estimated that between 350 and 400 UK pig farms will fall into these categories.  

IPPC rules will require substantial expenditure on improvements and alterations to slurry handling and storage facilities.

The Environment Agency will be responsible for administration of the system. 

But Stewart Houston, chairman of the National Pig Association, said the Environment Agency is overwhelmed by the extra responsibilities imposed by a whole raft of new EU regulations. 

Because of the comparatively limited time before the IPPC rules are due to be introduced producers throughout Europe have called for them to be postponed.

The NPA has pointed out that in order for continental producers to comply with IPPC rules by 2007 further changes would have to be made to their units. 

This could in turn trigger an earlier introduction of the stall and tether ban which is not due to be effective on the continent until 2013.

Unless EU commissioners agree a postponement , operators of all farms over the threshold size will have to apply for a permit between Nov 1, 2006 and Jan 31, 2007.

Permits are already required for new developments exceeding these sizes.

Although there is no guarantee that the EU will agree to postpone the IPPC introduction, previous lobbying by the Committee of Agricultural Organisations in the EU (COPA) for private storage aid and export subsidy payments was successful earlier in the year.

With the addition of the 10 new member states a greater bureaucratic burden will be faced by the Commission.

And with the IPPC deadline only 31 months away a compromise may yet be on the cards.