Calls for Clarity on Slurry Storage Support

Union continues to work with SEPA in Kintyre to on impact of rules

NFU Scotland is calling on Scottish Government to urgently clarify what support is to be available to farmers and crofters in 2023 as they transition to new and extremely challenging slurry storage regulations that will impact on the viability of some businesses. 

With new rules on application methods for slurry and digestate coming into force from 1 January 2023, those impacted by the rule changes are in an ‘information void’ on what support for storage and spreading is going to be available.

NFUS wrote to the Scottish Government nine months ago asking for slurry storage investment to be ring-fenced within the Agri-Environment and Climate Scheme budget, the grant rate available per project to be increased and for the funding to be made more widely accessible. 

For investment in slurry storage, the only currently available support is through the very limited AECS. Since launching in 2016, some 134 slurry storage applications have been approved under AECS - thereby committing £5.21 million. From a total AECS budget of some £290 million since 2016, it appears that less than 2 per cent has been allocated to slurry storage. The Union believes that must change.

It also called for the Sustainable Agricultural Capital Grant Scheme (SACGS), a £5 million fund which supported investment in specialist slurry equipment this year, to be significantly expanded in 2023 in terms of overall available funding, eligible expenditure, funding per business and grant rates. 

No new information has come forward from Scottish Government on this subject. By comparison, in recent weeks, Defra has announced grants of between £25,000 -£250,000 towards the cost of slurry storage, covers and supporting equipment for producers south of the Border. 

One area where a considerable number of farmers will be affected by the new rules is Kintyre. Since early May, NFU Scotland has been working with its members and SEPA regarding the changes to slurry and silage effluent regulations. SEPA has completed a programme of visiting farms in south Kintyre with slurry storage to gain a better understanding of the current position for each individual business and offer advice on the most cost-effective way forward. For many, support for investment in storage will be essential. A report of SEPA findings in South Kintyre is being prepared.

Ahead of the Scottish budget (due to be published on Thursday 15 December), NFUS is once again asking Scot Gov to provide adequate funding for slurry storage capacity.

Argyll and Islands Regional Chair, Duncan Macalister said: “It is disappointing that Scottish Government has not met our asks from the spring of the year leaving those farmers and crofters affected none the wiser on what support will be available for the necessary investments in the storage and application of slurry. 

“We are working alongside SEPA in Kintyre on how farmers can address the rule changes to ensure businesses comply, adopt best practice, and remain viable. However, that will not address the implications of significant financial investment for storage that will be required in a number of circumstances. These are additional costs that cannot be recovered via enhanced market returns or which banks are willing to provide additional lending for because such investment does not yield a financial return.

“Making the most of muck and slurry is paramount, given the very high price of fertilisers, but without providing clarity on what investments will be eligible for support, and what support rates will be, Scottish Government is limiting on farm efficiency and holding back progress on its own regulations.” 

Notes for editors

  • In January 2022, the Scottish Government made a number of changes to the controls for the storage of slurry and silage, as well as new requirements regarding more targeted and efficient application of slurry and liquid digestate.
  • As a result, the slurry storage capacity is 22 weeks for housed cattle and 26 weeks for housed pigs.
  • A four-year transition period from the coming into force date has been proposed for all farmers out with a Nitrate Vulnerable Zone (NVZ) to achieve compliance. 
  • From January 1, 2023, slurry will not be allowed to be applied by high trajectory raised splash plate or rain guns. From this date, slurry should be applied by using precision equipment if applied by contractors, if applied on farms with more than one hundred milking cows, or two hundred beef cattle livestock units, and applied on pig units with more eight hundred fattening pigs or eight hundred sows. This is the same for liquid digestate. For smaller farms, low trajectory splash plates will be allowed if they do not fall into any of these three categories. However, from January 1, 2027, all slurry must be applied by precision equipment.
  • From January 1, 2023, liquid digestate can only be applied using precision equipment.
  • The proposals also set an obligation for farmers to comply with the Risk Assessment for Manures and Slurries (RAMS) – a tool which helps plan applications of organic materials for good agricultural practice and reduce pollution risks.


Contact Bob Carruth on 07788 927675

Author: Bob Carruth

Date Published:

News Article No.: 111/22

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About The Author

Bob Carruth

A dairy farmer’s son, I joined NFU Scotland in 1999 after 13 years as an agricultural journalist. Following spells as a regional manager and policy lead on milk, livestock and animal health and welfare, I became Communications Director in 2008.

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