Government plans to allow slurry spreading outside of the normal closed period in Nitrate Vulnerable Zones will be a huge help to farmers struggling with the wet weather.
After the sustained spell of extremely wet weather, Defra has announced it has instructed the Rural Payments Agency to take into account the Environment Agency's guidance for farmers with livestock. It allows the spreading of slurry as a last resort for farms during the first two weeks of closed periods.
The guidance stipulates that contingency plans must be in place to deal with excess slurry during this period and the NFU is urging its members to use all other alternatives before spreading, as this will be taken into account by the RPA. Fines and other sanctions can be issued should farmers not comply with the guidance.
NFU deputy regional director Andrew Butler said: "This is a welcome but very delayed announcement, given the NFU first raised concerns with Defra and the EA in mid-July at our members' request.
"The announcement provides a pragmatic way forward that will allow farmers in greatest need and who have followed good practice, to spread slurry and manure before winter.
"We are pleased that Defra expects the Environment Agency to apply the NVZ rules flexibly and with discretion following what has been an exceptional summer's weather."
Closed periods on slurry and manure spreading within NVZs would prevent spreading to tillage land from October 1 and October 15 for grassland. The Environment Agency's guidance applies greater flexibility during the first two weeks of closed periods.