DEFRA has announced a national package of advice and support for farmers preparing for the new Nitrate Vulnerable Zone arrangements which come into force on 1 January 2009.

The package of advice and support includes:

* A helpline to answer technical queries from farmers and advisers. The telephone number is 0845 345 1302 (Monday – Friday, 7am – 7pm until 31 March 2009). Calls will be charged at the local rate.

* Information events for farmers and advisers. The events are being organised throughout NVZs in England. Invitations are being sent out but you can find out about events in your region (click the link) or through the helpline and by ringing 0845 345 1302 to book.

* NVZ guidance leaflets covering different aspects of the new rules, which will become available in the coming days on the DEFRA website. Printed copies will be available at events.

* Software tools developed to provide extra help with some of the calculations required under the new rules. These are available free of charge on this site or by telephoning 08456 023864.

DEFRA says that around 60 per cent of nitrate pollution in water is caused by agriculture, and it is vital that this is tackled to protect and sustain the quality of the UK’s drinking water.

Farmers with land located in an NVZ will receive a letter within the next few days about how the new rules will affect them.

As NVZs now cover almost 70 per cent of England, farmers who do not receive this letter should find out if they are in an NVZ using the detailed maps available on the DEFRA website.

DEFRA is also working closely with representatives from farming industry organisations to develop a technical case to support an application to the European Commission for a derogation from the livestock manure N farm limit of 170 kg N/ha/yr. If the application is successful, we will be able to set a higher limit (e.g. 230 – 250 kg N/ha/yr) in relation to eligible farms (e.g. 70% of farm is grassland and livestock are cattle).

Slurry storage facilities are eligible for plant and machinery allowances such as the new Annual Investment Allowance, capped at £50,000 per year, included in this year’s Finance Bill.

Slurry pits also qualify for allowances in their own right under the Capital Allowances Act 2001.