8 December 1995

NVZ men face a £10m tab for ECcompliance

By Tony McDougal

MORE than 8000 farmers in nitrate vulnerable zones in England and Wales face a £10m bill to comply with the EC nitrate directive.

The bill will be spread between the 70 NVZs, proposed by the government, covering 650,000ha (1.6m acres). Producers will also have to pay recurring annual costs of £3.1m.

Hardest hit will be milk producers who will have to fork out average annual costs of £4000 a farm, according to figures released by the Department of the Environment in a consultation document.

Pig farmers on light soils will also be hit substantially as they will require additional storage to cover the closed period for the field application of slurry. Estimated annual average costs are £3840\farm.

Sir Jeremy Bagg, past-chairman of Norfolk Country Landowers Association, who has vehemently opposed the designation of Swaffham NVZ, said farmers facing bills should receive at least 75% grant-aid.

He called for government spending on de-nitrification plants to process domestic water supplies.

Poultry producer Robin Worsley, whose farm at Templecombe on the Dorset/Somerset border falls within the Milborne Wick NVZ, said he would have to spend far more than the £1530 suggested by the DoE.

"I am trying to produce an environmentally-friendly product and yet I am being hammered by legislation," he said.

The DoE document, produced to comply with the EU directive, proposes manure and sewage sludge application limits of 210kg/ha on arable land, falling to 170kg/ha after four years.

But government has won a derogation on the amount of organic manure spread on grassland. It allows an additional 40kg/ha and a total of 250kg/ha in line with the code of good agricultural practice.

Brussels is keen that action programmes should be in force in the next year or so, but government has until December 1999 to implement legislation.

Dr Alan Woods, Country Landowners Association environment and water adviser, said it was vital government did not introduce legislation before December 1999 or it would place British farmers at a disadvantage.

He stressed that farmers in the NVZs should obtain free advice available from ADAS and apply for grant-aid support under MAFFs recently introduced waste handling and management scheme.

Mike Payne, NFU nitrate consultant, welcomed the Governments successful derogation, but warned that some farmers would have to pay well above the average DoE figures to meet the cost of safe storage of slurry.