To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what his policy is on the Royal Association of Dairy Farmers' request that due to summer rainfall and the effect on slurry storage there should be a national derogation for the upcoming nitrate vulnerable zone closed spreading periods.
Rainfall this summer has been much greater than normal, and the five months from April to August were the wettest in England and Wales since records began in 1910. This has made conditions for spreading slurry difficult on many farms. In addition, many animals have been kept indoors for significantly longer than usual because of the poor ground conditions, resulting in further slurry accumulation.
The closed period rules which apply in nitrate vulnerable zones are set out in the Nitrate Pollution Prevention Regulations 2008, as amended. We do not consider that a national derogation from the closed period rules would be appropriate.
However, the Government has asked the Environment Agency to take particular account of certain matters when deciding whether enforcement action under those regulations would be appropriate during the first two weeks of the closed period as it applies to heavier land. (The closed period is 1-
The Environment Agency seeks to enforce the regulations in all cases in a proportionate way, taking into account all the circumstances of each case. Where the impact of the exceptional weather has been demonstrably detrimental to the individual farmer's ability to spread slurry and the factors set out in the statement apply, the Environment Agency will be in a better position to give credit to the farmer when it comes to deciding whether, in all the circumstances, enforcement action is justified and appropriate.
The Government will keep this matter under review.