Plans to make substantial changes to the Nitrate Vulnerable Zone (NVZ) action programme are premature and unnecessary, the NFU has said.
The comments come after the publication of DEFRA’s NVZ consultation, which proposes changes to some of the key measures introduced in the NVZ action programme in 2008.
The consultation is open for submissions until March 2012, with the results to be implemented from January 2013.
NFU head of policy services Andrew Clark said: “The consultation states that nitrate levels have generally fallen in many surface waters since the last review. This reflects the impact of changing farming practice, the industry’s Tried and Tested initiative, as well as previous NVZ action programmes. The reducing pressure from agricultural nitrate is reflected in a small but important reduction in NVZ designations for the first time. We believe this makes DEFRA’s case for “whole territory” designation all the more unnecessary.
“The case for changes to the current NVZ action programme will be thoroughly tested. Some of the key measures introduced at the previous review in 2008 are only now being implemented fully, so their effect is yet to be measured. In this context it seems premature to make substantial change to the existing programme.
“Nonetheless, DEFRA proposes several changes of significant concern and potential cost – notably changing the Silage, Slurry and Agricultural Fuel Oil regulations, without clear evidence of pollution resulting from older storage, further extensions to the closed periods for slurry spreading on heavier soils and the re-consideration of cover crops requirements for sandy soils.
“The commitment to review record keeping requirements for farms that present low risk of nitrate pollution is a welcome change as would be linking closed periods for slurry spreading to local rainfall.
“We will be consulting our members and farm advisers on these proposals.”