Stewart Johnston, from Galbraith’s Aberdeen office, who was previously head of the Scottish Government's Rural Payments and Inspections Directorate for Grampian, said:
This is the beginning of the process where farmers will decide upon grazing, fertiliser, muck and slurry plans then record their usage throughout the year. This will ensure nitrate levels in water are not exceeded and the various NVZ rules are not infringed. Breaches can lead to cross compliance penalties (subsidy and grant payment reductions) and potentially court action.
Even a visit from an inspector is quite a difficult and time-consuming process, which farmers will prefer to avoid. Inspections can take more than one day and often inspectors will remove all the farm records for analysis off site.
The UK’s impending departure from the EU has not removed the NVZ requirements. We advise farmers to make sure all their records are up to date as quality assurance, SEPA and government inspectors are beginning their annual checks.
Galbraith advises on over 3.5 million acres of land in Scotland and northern England and provides a full consultancy service to farmers within the Nitrate Vulnerable Zones.
As part of the regulations for protecting Scotland’s water from excessive nitrates, farmers must now prepare:
- A risk assessment plan and (RAMS) map for slurry and muck.
- A calculation and record of the capacity of their storage facilities for livestock manures.
- A calculation and record for their holding of the 170 kg N/ Ha loading limit for livestock manure.
- Calculate and record the standard nitrogen requirement (Nmax) for each crop (including grassland) on the farm.
Maintaining NVZ plans and accurate records will avoid breaches. The common problems are:
- Slurry spreading in closed periods or inappropriate conditions.
- Excessive fertiliser/ manure applications.
- No or incorrect Nmax calculations.
- Incomplete RAMS maps.
- Non-existent or incomplete records of applications, fertiliser stocks, imports/ exports of muck/slurry.
- Poor, insufficient slurry storage.
- Inappropriate midden locations and durations.
Mr Johnston continued:
This level of record-keeping is something which farmers have had to manage for several years but it remains a significant administrative burden. There are however benefits for the farm as a whole from using fertiliser in the most efficient manner and there is the potential to reduce costs.