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Union on the Road on Nitrate Proposals

Meetings to be held in Stranraer and Finavon for farmers

The Scottish Government consultation on changes to the boundaries of the Nitrate Vulnerable Zones (NVZs) brings the potential of reducing the overall area in Scotland covered by NVZ restrictions. While that is to be welcomed, it also proposes to extend restrictions on nitrate usage to farming areas near to Stranraer in Dumfries and Galloway and Finavon in Angus – land not previously caught by NVZ legislation.

NVZs were introduced in Scotland in 2002 with the aim of reducing the levels of potentially harmful nitrates in groundwater. Scotland currently has 14 percent of its total landmass designated as an NVZ where the restrictions on nitrate inputs, coupled with the closed periods on slurry application and paperwork burden, mean that being in an NVZ has a significant impact on a farm business.

NFU Scotland is to hold farmer meetings in Dumfries and Galloway and Angus to discuss what the proposals could mean for those farming in areas that could join an NVZ.  The Stranraer meeting – to be held at Green Valley Golf Academy – will be held on Thursday, 15 May with a meeting being held in the Finavon Hotel, Finavon near Forfar on Wednesday, 21 May.   Representatives from SEPA and Scottish Government will attend both meetings.

The Stranraer meeting will be chaired by local dairy farmer Gary Mitchell, vice chairman of Dumfries and Galloway Region.  If proposals go ahead, Gary’s farm at West Galdenoch would be one of the farms close to the Piltanton Burn that would be subject to nitrate restrictions. Encouraging farmers to attend the planned meetings, Gary said:

“I think it is important that every farmer who could be affected by the proposals makes the effort to come to these meetings.  It will be an opportunity to hear first-hand the results of the water quality tests that have been carried out in these parts, indicating if nitrate levels have increased, decreased or remained the same.

“These proposed designations in Stranraer and Finavon are not signed and sealed and a strong farmer presence at these meetings will help send the right signals to decision-makers.

“Here in Stranraer, SEPA and Scottish Government have been very good at listening to our case.  I believe they fully appreciate that we are a heavily stocked, early grass growing livestock area and that an NVZ designation would have a serious impact on how we normally run our farm businesses.

“Farmers in this area are taking their responsibilities on water quality very seriously and there has been a noticeable change in slurry spreading activities over the winter months. We want that commitment to be a factor in the decision-making process.”

Deputy Director of Policy at NFU Scotland, Andrew Bauer added:

“NFU Scotland fully accepts that farmers have to play their part in reducing diffuse pollution, but we have long argued that the methodology for setting NVZ boundaries created real anomalies in the areas of Scotland being designated as NVZs.

“The Scottish Government and SEPA have developed a more robust and proportionate approach. The results mean that Scottish Government is now proposing to reduce the overall area of the NVZs in Scotland by 24 percent – something NFU Scotland wholeheartedly welcomes.
 
“The areas proposed to be de-designated encompass 37 groundwater bodies – in Moray, Aberdeenshire, Perthshire, Fife, Midlothian, East Lothian, Borders, and Dumfries & Galloway. But alongside this, areas around Finavon and Stranraer are proposed to be designated as NVZs in 2015.

“At these meetings, Scottish Government and SEPA will explain their proposals and members will have a chance to give their views. These, and the views of the wider membership, will help inform NFU Scotland’s submission to the consultation that closes on 4 June.

“All of Scottish agriculture has to continue to work to ensure that diffuse pollution is tackled as far as is possible. Those who are potentially going to be removed from the NVZ are not being given a one-way ticket out – if groundwater nitrate levels increase they could potentially be re-designated in future reviews.

“Equally, those who are not proposed to be removed this time around will have a chance in future reviews, and NFU Scotland will be there to make the case. In the meantime, NFU Scotland will be pushing Scottish Government to ensure the proposed de-designations happen by autumn 2014 so that no one is unnecessarily going into a closed period.” 
 
Notes to editors

Please find below the agenda for the forthcoming meetings at Green Valley Golf Academy, Stranraer (Thursday 15 May) and Finavon Hotel (Wednesday 21 May):

  • 19:30-19:35  Chairman’s welcome and introductions (Dumfries & Galloway Vice Chairman Gary Mitchell will chair the Stranraer meeting and Combinable Crops Committee Chairman Andrew Moir will chair the Finavon meeting.)
  • 19:30-19:45  The reason for the boundary review – Scottish Government
  • 19:45-20:15  The monitoring results and new methodology – SEPA
  • 20:15-20:35  The proposed revisions and next steps – Scottish Government
  • 20:35-20:50  Q&A
  • 20:50-21:00  Summing up by Chairman.

Ends

Contact Bob Carruth on 0131 472 4006

Date Published:

News Article No.: 87/14


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