Farmers are being urged to check whether their land falls within a newly designated nitrogen vulnerable zone (NVZ) – so an appeal can be launched if necessary.
Notifications telling farmers they are in an NVZ are going out in three tranches – but some notices have been sent to farmers’ land agents, rather than to farmers themselves.
The first batch of notifications covers north-west England and the West Midlands, including the river basin districts Solway, Dee, North West and Severn.
A second tranche of notices, due to be sent out later this month, is expected to cover East Anglia, south-east England, the South West and Thames.
The final tranche, covering Northumbria and the Humber, will be sent out from 20 February. But Kate Russell, policy and technical adviser at the Central Association of Agricultural Valuers, said many notices were being sent to agents, not farmers.
She said: “Agents are receiving dozens of notices from Defra with absolutely no means of identifying which farmer or even which land the notice relates to.”
The window for lodging an appeal against a notice is 28 days.
Ms Russell warned: “There will be farmers who do not receive their notice in time to appeal, because it is impossible for the agent to know who to send it to.”
NFU water quality adviser Nicola Dunn said members could use the union’s NFU Call First service if they do not understand the designations and appeals process.
Support was available through the union’s Legal Assistance Scheme to members who wished to appeal.
Ms Dunn said the appeals process was farmers’ only chance in the four-year period to challenge NVZ designations so it was important take a look.
Farmers can check if their land is in an NVZ on the Environment Agency’s What’s In Your Backyard mapping tool.
The Environment Agency website says farmers who believe they should have received a notice but have not can request a notification.
Requesting a new notice will trigger a new 28-day window for appeals.
Defra said any missing notices would be dated with the date that the notice is dispatched.