Dairy Event 2009: NVZ costs risk pushing milk sector over edge

The dairy industry could be pushed into terminal decline because of new rules forcing farmers to up their slurry storage facilities, according to the Tenant Farmers Association.

The TFA used the opening day of the Dairy Event and Livestock Show (16 September) to warn that new Nitrate Vulnerable Zone rules represent a crunch point for many producers.

“The average dairy farmer is looking at an investment of about £50,000 to £60,000 to comply with the new regulations and will be no better off from having done so,” said national vice chairman Stephen Wyrill.

“With the low returns already experienced by dairy farmers the TFA is extremely concerned that many, particularly in the tenanted sector, will be forced to give up dairy farming.”

The government claims that the new requirements are necessary to meet the conditions set out in the EU Nitrates Directive.

The TFA maintains that it is widely held that the Directive is scientifically flawed in attempting to meet its main objective of reducing nitrate leaching from farmland into groundwater, rivers and water courses.

“We have just over two years to sort this problem. We have been calling for the government to provide essential grant aid to assist farmers in meeting these huge investment costs which will enable them only to mark time.

“Tenanted dairy holdings are in desperate need of significant investment for modernisation in any case but if the landlords and tenants of those holdings are forced to spend their limited cash on slurry storage capacity there will be nothing left for this essential investment.

“It is no exaggeration to say that we risk pushing the industry into terminal decline and having then to rely on imports for a greater portion of our milk. We already import about 1m litres a day equivalent to the production of between 350 and 400 average dairy farmers in the UK.”