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Addressing slurry storage concerns in Argyll and the Islands

The financial implications of the new regulations around the storage of slurry, which came into force on 1 January 2022, remains a major concern for many of our members writes Duncan Macalister, chair of NFU Scotland’s Argyll and the Islands region.

When NFUS responded to the initial consultation in April 2021, we opposed a one-size-fits-all 22-week slurry storage requirement for the whole of Scotland and urged Scottish Government to consider the unique soil and climate conditions of our region.

We have undertaken several actions, including lobbying our local MSPs, who in turn have asked a series of parliamentary questions on the matter, as well as writing a letter to the cabinet secretary, Mairi Gougeon, to ringfence funding for slurry stores.  However, the rules as they stand are still in place.

Alongside this, we have also undertaken a series of discussions with SEPA, who are responsible for ensuring compliance with the new rules. During a meeting at NFUS HQ at Ingliston, I set out the grave concerns of many in the region and the implications that the regulations could have not only on the financial viability of individual farm businesses, but the economic survival of the whole region.

During our discussions, SEPA were clear that they would not take a heavy-handed approach to enforcing the regulations, and were instead in favour of working with farmers, in order to bring them closer to compliance.

While I appreciate there are many who still feel there is a lack of trust between farmers and the regulator, only by working more closely together can we start to rebuild that relationship.

That is why we have agreed a series of actions to move forward on this issue.

Firstly, we would like to have a town hall meeting in the region to give the members a chance to discuss their concerns directly with SEPA.  It also allows SEPA to explain first-hand how they plan to work with farmers, provide advice and guidance, and build relationships. We also hope that later in the year there will be the opportunity for an on-farm visit to look at the issues farmers face, and identify solutions, in a practical way.  

Running in parallel to this work, the A&I region are also planning to do a trial with the help of SAC to demonstrate that the standard of water quality in the area is high and that farmers do not pollute water courses or ground water in the winter. We hope to prove that the nutrients applied are taken up by the grass, which bring multiple benefits of providing valuable feed for sheep and cattle, as well as carbon sequestration. If the trial is successful, it will strengthen our argument that a one-size-fits-all approach is not appropriate for some areas of Scotland.

While NFUS will continue to push government for ringfenced funding for slurry storage facilities – as there is no doubt that for some, significant levels of investment will be required – we will continue to engage with SEPA on a regular basis. This ensures that they are aware of our concerns and, where pragmatic solutions can be found, these can be communicated back to farmers.

There is still a long way to go on limiting the adverse impacts of these regulations, but I commit to keeping the momentum moving on this and endeavour to keep you all updated on developments as and when they happen.

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