Nearly half of farmers will not have enough slurry storage to comply with Nitrate Vulnerable Zone rules coming into force next year, according to the NFU.
A survey of dairy farmers across England found 46% of dairy farmers had nitrogen farm loading above the 170kg/ha limit.
Of the 150 questioned, few farmers said they planned to invest substantial amounts to meet the regulations – a situation compounded by poor milk prices.
According to the survey, a fifth of producers said they would not invest to meet the regulation, while more than a third planned to invest less than £25,000.
NFU dairy adviser Siân Davies said it was “another mountain to climb” for struggling dairy farmers.
“The survey has confirmed our worst fears and shown the very low levels of investment within the dairy sector,” she added.
“With farmers on average being paid a milk price 3ppl less than it costs to produce it, there’s no wonder that these investment levels are so low. Complying with the new NVZ rules could be a step too far for some farmers.”
She said a number of farmers still did not know their NVZ status or how compliance with regulations would impact their farm practices.
“It seems that many may be playing a game of wait and see,” she added.
“But with some of the new regulations already in place and others, such as sufficient slurry storage, coming into force from 1 January 2012, farmers don’t have long to comply and some may well question their future in the industry.
“It’s clear that farmers need more support and guidance on complying with the regulation – this means greater use of fiscal incentives such as low-interest loans and tax reliefs, increased promotion and uptake of the grassland derogation and a complete review of RDPE funding, to see how it could be better targeted to help farmers achieve NVZ compliance.”