Know your NVZ rules

Farmers in Nitrate Vulnerable Zones who have not yet invested in storage facilities to meet the regulation have only a short window to act.

Producers must be aware of the time it takes for planning permission to be granted and to get the work done, warned The Dairy Group’s Becky Floate. “Farmers need to get slurry calculations done if they haven’t already done so, contact their local planning authority and make arrangements for extensions to existing stores and new stores so they are in place by 1 January 2012.”

But according to the Environment Agency’s Julian Wardlaw, getting planning permission can be a long process. “If you are only just thinking about putting in planning permission now then you could be pushing the deadline.”

He said the EA was concerned there may be significant numbers of livestock farmers in NVZs who had not made preparations for the closed period other than to work out their storage calculations.

This would support findings from the NFU’s Dairy NVZ Survey released last month, which found 45% of the 150 farmers surveyed between September and November 2010 did not have sufficient storage, with a fifth of farmers not planning to invest to comply with the NVZ programme.

If farmers don’t have sufficient storage in place then they will be breaching nitrate regulations, said Mr Wardlaw. “Farmers have had three years to invest in storage, which we believe has been sufficient time to make changes. However, we may take-in to account issues where farmers have genuinely tried to install the appropriate storage, but this will be judged on a case by case basis.”

Example circumstances he said the EA may take in to account were issues around planning permission, contractor availability, equipment supply and tenancy issues. He also stressed that when existing or new facilities were being built or expanded they must comply with the construction standards of the SSAFO Regulations and the farmer must notify the EA before they are used.

However, worryingly the NFU survey also found 25% of respondents didn’t know what the NVZ requirements were. But as Ms Floate explained, if farmers who were in an NVZ zone hadn’t already completed some records then they were already in breach of cross compliance.

All farmers last year should have already calculated and recorded the slurry volume that needed to be stored and the current available storage volume.

“By 30 April Farmers must collate accurate average livestock numbers for 2010 and update slurry storage calculations. If they had a grassland derogation in 2010 they must send the EA records of livestock numbers, imports/exports of manure, fertiliser inventory and area of different crops to show they have complied with the terms of the grassland derogation. This is important as this is the first time this has been required,” said Ms Floate.

Fertiliser plans also need to be made before any applications, and field records need to be up to date within one week of application.

But as Mr Warlaw said these regulations will helps farmers better manage their slurry. “Putting in additional storage means farmers can make more beneficial use of slurry.”

NVZ Queries

If you are worried about NVZs or don’t quite understand what to do, then contact the Environment Agency direct on 08708 506 506. An NVZ record keeping checklist is also available from DEFRA online.

• Find out more about NVZs at Grassland and Muck 2011. It takes place on 18 and 19 May at Stoneleigh, Warwickshire.