Have a read of this:
“This means farmers will have to calculate the level of available nitrogen already in the soil, the N requirement of the crop, the available N from planned spreading of livestock manures and calculate the remaining level of manufactured nitrogen they can apply. Accurate record keeping is also a requirement.”
Is it just me or does that sound more like a school science exam question than something your average farmer is going to understand?
The above is taken from FWI’s Introduction to Nitrate Vulnerable Zones and to see the size of the problem for farmers just look at all the links on their page attempting to guide farmers through the maze of paperwork surrounding NVZs.
The NVZs are all to do with water quality. This is from the Defra website introduction to :
“Various activities contribute to diffuse pollution, including agriculture, forestry, mining, construction and urban life. Pollutants deposited on land, roads and spaces are washed into watercourses by rain. Consequently, the local climate, geology and other natural phenomena can influence the size and extent of the problem. In agriculture, diffuse pollutants include silt from soil erosion, nutrients from the application of fertiliser or spreading of manure, and pesticides from the handling and application of the chemicals.”
My beef (pardon the pun) is not with the legislation itself but with the level of red tape once again being wrapped around farming and the lack of common sense being applied by the government … as usual it’s pick a date, spend a fortune producing information nobody can understand and just go for it.
Kenneth Phillipson is a 61 year old Cumbrian farmer and is unlucky enough to fall into one of the newly designated NVZ’s.
If Mr Phillipson was to keep within the new regulations he would have to invest (read that as borrow from the bank) £80,000 to build new slurry storage facilities at his farm and so close to retirement, with milk prices at rock bottom, he would have no chance of paying off the ‘investment’ before he retired.
His only alternative was to sell his milk herd.
Thank the Lord we are not in a NVZ, hence my late ranting about this subject, but when I heard about this story I trotted off to Defra to ask for the Guidance Pack for Nitrate Vulnerable Zones.
The pack contains 9 different leaflets, all with exciting titles like “Manure Sampling Protocol” and “The N Max Limit” .. just the sort of claptrap your average farmer is going to read the title of, shrug and use to light the fire.
In leaflet 1 we are told which leaflets you need for the farm system you have. If you have “livestock, organic manures applied to land” then you need all 9 leaflets and may I suggest a stiff drink or two before reading them.
Off I went to the local pub to ask local farmers what they made of the leaflets … that was fun!
It’s the usual government produced information, with leaflet 4 referring you to table 6 in leaflet 3 and annex B in leaflet 8, then times that number by 7 and add an orange.
I may be exaggerating just a little with that equation but believe me it’s not too far from the truth.
The leaflets managed to start quite an uproar as the local farmers spread the leaflets all over the bar and tried to work out which one referred you where, which parts would apply to their farm if they were in a NVZ, which forms they had to fill in and the darts blackboard was utilised to try to work out what this means …
Actual total N produced = Standard value (from table) x Actual occupancy divided by Standard occupancy.
Of course there was a huge row over which table was being referred to in that equation as it doesn’t actually say, there are quite a lot of tables and farmers don’t read the smallprint.
Our conclusion was that science degree students would struggle to understand the mountain of leaflets, technical waffle and yet more records farmers have to keep … best just to sell up, it’s not like there’s any money left in the job!
Everyone ordered another pint and then went home to pray we don’t end up in a Nitrate Vulnerable Zone one day.
This map of nitrate vulnerable zones shows the scale of farms affected, it now covers 70% of the country.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with protecting water courses from nitrate pollution or from requiring farmers to keep adequate records but farmers are simple people. Why can’t regulations be written for the people that have to abide by them instead of for beaurocrats to impress each other with?
Farmers finding themselves included in new Nitrate Vulnerable Zones have to suddenly come up with considerable investment in order to store slurry over winter (and perhaps study for a science degree) or choose to quit farming.
I know I can be a cynic at times but when you look at the governments choice of a vegetarian, anti-hunting Food and Farming Minister and the governments refusal to buy British farmed food for their own use I do sometimes wonder whether getting farmers to quit is the long term plan!