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Union Calls for Creeping Regulation Around Water Margins to Stop

NFU Scotland has called on the Scottish Government to avoid further regulations around the protection of water margins and, instead, recognise the work that joint industry initiatives are doing to tackle diffuse pollution.

The Union’s comments were made in response to an informal consultation from Scottish Government on what the Good Agricultural and Environmental Condition (GAEC) standard should include with regards to establishing buffer strips along watercourses. 

This standard, due to become part of cross-compliance requirements from January 2012, is a legacy of previously agreed regulations.  While accepting that the latest GAEC rules are a fait accompli, NFUS has used the opportunity to call on the Scottish Government to avoid further rules in this area and, instead, build on the ongoing industry initiatives around tackling diffuse pollution.

NFU Scotland’s Head of Rural Policy, Jonnie Hall said:

“While the new rules coming into force in January 2012 are already set in stone, there is the potential for the Scottish Government to roll other elements of the General Binding Rules to tackle diffuse pollution into GAEC and cross-compliance.  That is something that NFUS would vehemently oppose at this time.

“Ramping up the rules regarding buffer strips could undermine the joint efforts of Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) and NFU Scotland to tackle diffuse pollution issues in a proactive and pragmatic way.  These are currently focussed on improving compliance at farm level through advice, awareness raising and changing practice - rather than regulation and enforcement.  We believe the approach is already beginning to bring returns in terms of water quality improvements.

“We do not want to see the challenges of diffuse pollution addressed through the very blunt tools of cross-compliance and inspection or regulation and enforcement and we hope that is a position that Scottish Government and SEPA share. Any move beyond the minimum requirements of the EU Commission at this stage might make all the good progress to date redundant.

“The new rules coming into force will already present a significant challenge to many farmers. Unfortunately, these are a legacy of the CAP Health Check agreed in 2008, which included a requirement for Member States to introduce a GAEC measure to protect water courses against diffuse pollution and run-off by 1 January 2012.

“We reluctantly accept that this is likely to require, as a minimum, extending the Nitrate Vulnerable Zone (NVZ) rules relating to the application of fertiliser near water courses to all of Scotland, and not just the 14 percent of the country currently designated as NVZ.

“The new standard will form part of cross-compliance requirements.  We will work with Scottish Government and other agencies to ensure that all farmers are aware that any breach of the new GAEC requirement on water margins from January 2012 onwards may then result in a Single Farm Payment penalty. 

“We firmly believe that this step alone will be sufficient to address significant diffuse water pollution issues - and no further additions to cross-compliance related to water protection should be made until a demonstrable need has been established in Scotland.”

Notes to Editors

  • Council Regulation 73/2009 specifies that the compulsory standard is for the establishment of buffer zones along watercourses and that the standard is to be introduced by 1 January 2012.
  • The Nitrate Vulnerable Zone rules that will apply to all of Scotland as part of Good Agricultural and Environmental Condition (GAEC) and will be part of cross-compliance requirements from 1 January 2012 are:
    • Organic fertiliser (slurries and manures) must not be applied to any land a) within 10 metres of any surface water (ditch, burn, river, wetland etc) and b) within 50 metres of a well, borehole or similar water supply.
    • Inorganic Nitrogen fertilisers must not be applied to any land a) within 2 metres of surface water (this has been required under General Binding Rules across Scotland since 2008) and b) in any other case in a location or manner that makes it likely that chemical fertiliser will directly enter any surface water.

Ends

Contact Bob Carruth on 0131 472 4006

Date Published:

News Article No.: 109/11


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