DEFRA under fire for nitrate gaffe

NFU SCOTLAND has launched a stinging attack on DEFRA for failing to apply the EU‘s Nitrates Directive properly in the UK, which has prompted Brussels to put a block on Scotland‘s planned Land Management Contracts.

LMCs are meant to start next year and will use modulation money to encourage farmers to adopt environmentally friendly activities.

Together with England‘s proposed Entry Level Scheme for environmental stewardship, the new policy is currently awaiting approval in Brussels.

But, as reported in FARMERS WEEKLY last week (w/e Oct 8), these schemes have become embroiled in an on-going spat between the Commission and DEFRA.

“It appears a derogation that was understood to exist, which allowed farmers within nitrate vulnerable zones to spread up to 250kg/ha of nitrogen (instead of the 170kg/ha norm), was never officially applied for by DEFRA,” said an NFUS statement.

“As a result of the mix-up, the Commission‘s environment department has effectively blocked the approval of the Scottish Executive‘s Land Management Contracts proposals until the situation is resolved.”

NFUS president John Kinnaird said that Scotland had already responded once to pressure from Brussels to implement the 1991 Nitrates Directive more fully by extending its NVZs.

“Now the UK is under further pressure and farmers are facing more restrictions, with LMCs being used as the political lever to achieve them,” he said.

“Our members should not have to pay the price of more restrictions on farming in NVZs just because someone in DEFRA hasn‘t filled a form in.

“LMCs are too important to be derailed by a paperwork issue relating to NVZs.”

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