It will be costly and not very effective and the money could be better spent elsewhere, said the union’s nitrate consultant Michael Payne at a recent farmer meeting at Woodhall Spa, Lincs.
Nitrate levels in the river Trent and other major Midland water ways had fallen in recent years and nitrate problems associated with poultry manure were eased now that three-quarters of poultry waste went to fuel power stations.
Nitrate levels were declining at three-quarters of river monitoring sites and at some groundwater sites. Other important Midland rivers showing declines of between 10% and 20% included the Thames, Warwickshire Avon and Weaver.
But Whitehall was not convinced and could not be confident these downward trends could be sustained and were not short term fluctuations due, maybe, to the weather.
In addition to expanding NVZ areas in England from 55% of farmland to 70%, DEFRA wants to introduce closed periods for manure and minimum storage requirements of 26 weeks. It would apply to manures with high available nitrogen of 30% and over. Deductions would be permitted for litter stored in temporary field heap.
The storage proposals could involve a significant capital outlay for hard-pressed poultry producers warned Mr Payne, adding that producers in Northern Ireland have received capital grants up to 60% but only after demonstrations were held. Those in the Irish Republic have done even better with up to 80%.
NFU regional director Richard Hezlet described the proposals as draconian and warned farmers that they have until 13 November 2007 to provide government with first-hand information of the effect the moves would have on their businesses.
The union would be pressing for a package of assistance to help producers meet the extra demands, he promised.