Welcome for ‘sensible’ change to rules

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A YEAR ago, the farming industry was up in arms over proposed regulations aimed at preventing pollution. As then worded by the Scottish Government, the regulations would have prohibited any spreading of fertiliser or pesticide on slopes above 12 degrees, taking a fair percentage of land in Scotland out of production.

Now, without any fanfare, the wording has been changed, a move welcomed by NFU Scotland as progress from what they described as “the original impractical proposals”.

As the rules now stand, it is up to the farmer to decide if there is a danger of run-off from fields adjacent to watercourses. If there is no risk, fertiliser can be spread on land steeper than 12 degrees.

The union’s environment and land use policy manager, Andrew Bauer, said: “Over a year ago, NFU Scotland strongly opposed the proposed wording regarding fertiliser and pesticide application on sloping ground, pointing out that there was a high risk that it could be misinterpreted as a blanket ban on the application of these essential materials on any ground over 12 degrees.”

He added he was heartened that the Scottish Government had listened to these concerns about the wording and had now brought forward changes to the general binding rules that were more “risk-based and proportionate”.

Bauer strongly advised farmers to acquaint themselves with the new proposals, which came into force last week.. Apart from the spreading of fertiliser and pesticides close to watercourses, the rules cover other issues such as not storing fertilisers within 10 metres of any water course or on ground sloping towards water unless there is a buffer zone to prevent any leakage reaching the water.

Livestock producers are also warned not to position feeding troughs any closer than 10 metres from watercourses.

For farmers cropping land, there has also been a clarification of the rules, with a minimum distance of two metres from the top of the bank having to be left fallow. In cases of gradually sloping land, NFU Scotland has been assured that this rule would be interpreted as being two metres from the last break in the slope before the water. “NFUS knows this is a complicated subject and is working with the Scottish Government, Sepa [the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency] and SRUC [the Scottish Rural College} to produce a plain English guidance for farmers, crofters and land managers on their legal responsibilities for protecting the water environment,” said Bauer.

Until that document is published later this year, he advised anyone with concerns to contact NFU Scotland head office or local Sepa offices.