28 June 2002

Half of English

area under NVZ

restriction soon

By Isabel Davies

RESTRICTIONS on fertiliser applications will apply to 55% of farmland in England by the end of the year following governments decision to designate it a Nitrate Vulnerable Zone.

DEFRA secretary Margaret Beckett was due to announce to the House of Commons yesterday (Thurs, June 27) that steps would be introduced in order to control pollution from the agricultural industry.

These included increasing the amount of farmland in England designated as an NVZ by 47% from Dec 19 2002. This will add to the 8% of land area that has been an NVZ since 1996.

The minister was also due to announce the publication of a discussion paper on the governments strategic review of diffuse water pollution coming from agriculture.

Mrs Beckett was also thought to be planning to announce plans to publish a document which explains the environmental damage caused by ammonia emissions. About 85% of the UKs ammonia emissions are believed to come from farming.

Farm leaders are relieved the government has gone for a 55% figure rather than 80% or 100% as suggested in a consultation paper published last year.

But the industry is still dismayed that farmers across over half of England are to face restrictions on the amount of manure and fertilisers they can use at certain times of the year.

Edward Greenwell, president of the Country Land and Business Association, said: "A reduction in designated land area of 45% will make a huge difference to the viability of many farming businesses, especially livestock farmers.

"However the CLA still believes that DEFRA is "gold-plating" the [EU Nitrates] Directive by including up-stream, sub-catchments where the nitrate concentration is less than the 50mg/litre limit that flow into waters with a concentration of over 50mg/l."

The CLA believes that these areas actually dilute the downstream concentration and should not be included.

Environment consultant Michael Payne, who has been working on behalf of the NFU on NVZs, said an awful lot of what was going to be done by farmers would not have to have any environmental gain. &#42

And if the government had stuck to the same methodology it used when designating the first NVZs in 1996, significantly less of the country would need to be included, said Mr Payne. "I wouldnt think it would exceed 20%."