Call for increased financial support to meet new slurry storage rules

Farmers will struggle to meet the financial costs of new slurry storage regulations – and a call has now been made for the Scottish Government to increase grant funding to help meet the costs.
NFUS president Martin Kennedy.NFUS president Martin Kennedy.
NFUS president Martin Kennedy.

NFU Scotland yesterday called for funding for slurry storage investment to be ring-fenced within the Agri-Environment Climate Scheme (AECS), for the grant rate available per project to be increased and for the funding to be made more widely accessible.

The union said that from a total AECS budget of some £290 million since 2016, less than 2 per cent has been allocated to slurry storage – with only 134 slurry storage applications being approved nationally.

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The union also said that while the most recent Sustainable Agricultural Capital Grant Scheme (SACGS) had focused on precision slurry applications and slurry store covers, the limited £5m earmarked for the scheme fell far short of the promised ‘transformational’ funding.

“To be effective in reducing emissions and enhancing the environment, SACGS must be significantly expanded – in terms of overall available funding, eligible expenditure, funding per business and grant rates,” said union president Martin Kennedy. He added that the union had an unprecedented level of response and concerns from members last year when it had consulted on the new proposals.

Part of the new regulations which came into force in January this year were described as “a purely regulatory solution that delivered nothing for the Scottish economy or for fragile rural communities highly dependent on agricultural production”.

Requiring a minimum slurry storage of 22 weeks for housed cattle and 26 weeks for housed pigs across Scotland, the union said that despite the four-year transition period, the capital investment required could harm the only economic activity in many fragile locations.

“The union supports policies and practices that aim to reduce emissions and diffuse pollution associated with agricultural activity and believes all farm businesses can and should play their part in meeting climate change challenges and safeguarding water quality.

“However, If reducing emissions and improving water quality are to be attained through a just transition, then transformational funding needs to be made available in addition to the backstop of regulatory compliance,” said Kennedy. “The financial impacts of compliance with new regulations on slurry on some farms and crofts may threaten their economic viability. A proportionate solution is required that delivers the desired environmental outcomes without excessive or business threatening costs to individual farms and crofts.”

But he said that the promise to provide farm businesses with appropriate options and advice to ensure compliance and help enable good or best practice did not address the implications of the significant financial investment that were required.

Stating that these additional costs could not be recovered from the marketplace, Kennedy added that banks were often unwilling to provide additional lending for such investment as it did not yield a financial return: “A significantly enhanced support package is crucial to delivery of the new regulations and vital if production levels from some Scottish livestock farms and crofts is to be maintained,” added Kennedy.



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