The Tenant Farmers Association has highlighted its concerns over new restrictions on producers in Nitrate Vulnerable Zones being proposed by the European Commission.

The TFA’s national chairman Reg Haydon, said the proposals were neither practical nor based on any objective assessment of need.

The Commission is proposing the blanket imposition of a 170kg limit on the amount of nitrogen in livestock manure that may be applied to land in an NVZ, the extension of closed periods for spreading slurry into February, the application of closed periods to all land types; and an increase in the amount of storage capacity for slurry on farms to cover the extended closed period.

DEFRA is currently in negotiation with the European Commission over its proposals and the TFA is urging DEFRA to take a hard line with the Commission to ensure that any changes are based on evidence that the current regulations are not delivering the required outputs.

“The TFA is concerned that the Commission is trying to push the auspices of the Nitrates Directive further than is reasonable. 

“In particular, it is trying to cover matters that should properly fall to be looked at under the Water Framework Directive where new measures have to be judged against the principle of “disproportionate cost” which does not feature under the Directive. 

“We also have concerns about the Environment Agency’s presentation of water quality data to the Commission and asked DEFRA in October of last year to arrange a meeting between farming interests and the Agency to discuss this further – we still await a date for that meeting” said Mr Haydon.

“Applying closed periods to clay soils and extending the closed periods into February will wreck what is considered good farming practice in the handling of slurry and manure and generally accepted principles of minimising damage to soils through inappropriate machinery use. 

“Untold damage will be done if farmers are to be forced to wait until well into the New Year before getting onto land” said Mr Haydon.