Union Calls on Parliamentary Committee to Annul New Nitrate Designation in Dumfries and Galloway

Voluntary approach on Piltanton Burn already addressing nitrate concerns

NFU Scotland has written to the lead committee in the Scottish Parliament urging them to support the withdrawal of plans to introduce a new Nitrate Vulnerable Zone (NVZ) in Dumfries and Galloway.

NFU Scotland has serious concerns about the impact that the NVZ designation could have on farmers within the Piltanton Burn area in the Stranraer Lowlands and points to the substantial voluntary effort already made by farmers in the area to address diffuse pollution.

In writing to the Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment (RACCE) Committee at Holyrood, NFUS has stated that the NVZ designation - one of the most bureaucratic and prescriptive types of regulation - will add significant paperwork and costs to farmers and land managers.  However, in keeping with the recommendations of the Scottish Government-commissioned Pack Report into red tape and bureaucracy, the Union believes the desired outcome of reducing nitrate levels can be fully achieved through a voluntary rather than a mandatory approach.

In the latest review of NVZ designations, which received significant input from NFU Scotland, improving water quality saw more than 2000 Scottish farms lifted out of meeting NVZ requirements.

Regional Chairman Gary Mitchell, who farms at West Galdenoch near Stranraer said: “Farmers and land managers in the Piltanton Burn area have taken their responsibilities to reduce nitrates and improve water very seriously but their reward from Scottish Government is red tape, restrictions on their business and cost.  

“We have voluntarily instigated a programme of capital investment and management changes which has already delivered a significant downward trend in nitrate levels in the Piltanton groundwater body.

“The Piltanton Burn Catchment Initiative has assisted funding applications to the Rural Development Programme that have led to the construction of 43 new slurry stores – where 60 percent of the funding has come from farmers themselves. Local farmers have also fenced off 30 miles of watercourse as well as providing extra housing for wintering nearly 2,000 cattle, to take them off the land during the wettest time of year.

“As a heavily stocked, early grass-growing livestock and dairy area, this investment and change in practice has led to significant improvements in groundwater nitrate levels, and that justifies a programme of self-regulation and monitoring, rather than Scottish Government bluntly accepting that all producers in these areas must comply with complex and costly NVZ requirements.

NFU Scotland’s Deputy Director of Policy, Andrew Bauer said: “Whilst we continue to encourage all of Scottish agriculture to reduce, and if possible eliminate, diffuse pollution, we are absolutely convinced that a voluntary rather than mandatory approach is far more successful in delivering environmental outcomes. We agree with Brian Pack MBE in his ‘Doing Better’ report that a self-regulation pilot should be established in the Piltanton area to further encourage local farmers to reduce groundwater and surface water diffuse pollution.

“Instead, the Scottish Government is looking to bring into force the additional administrative burden of designating Piltanton Burn an NVZ at a time when the economics of farming are fragile.  That will critically damage local faith in Scottish Government, SEPA and partnership working for environmental outcomes. With low prices and the prospect of reduced and lower CAP payments, the imposition of further regulations and paperwork could leave many farmers in the area questioning the future viability of their businesses.

“As a remedy, we urge MSPs to vote for a motion to annul the statutory instrument to introduce the NVZ until other options are given due consideration by Scottish Government. That would lift these hard working farmers out of the administrative burden and recognise that much has gone in to improving water quality.”  


Contact Bob Carruth on 0131 472 4006

Date Published:

News Article No.: 215/15

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