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Nitrates: EU Law

Volume 487: debated on Tuesday 3 February 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps he is taking to assist farmers to meet the requirements of the EU Nitrates Directive; and what recent representations he has received on the effects of implementation of the Directive on farming. (250904)

We received over 600 responses to the consultation on proposals to revise the Nitrates Regulations. Since the consultation closed in December, representations have continued to be received from the farming sector. The proposals were also the subject of an inquiry by the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee.

I recognise that some farmers in nitrate vulnerable zones will face costs when implementing the new rules established by the Nitrate Pollution Prevention Regulations 2008. By way of mitigation, we are applying to the European Commission for a derogation from one of the most costly new rules, the livestock manure N farm limit. If this application is successful, costs to eligible dairy farmers would be significantly reduced.

In addition, a package of advice and support, including a technical helpline, comprehensive guidance material, information events and practical workshops, is currently being rolled out nationally.

There are a number of existing potential sources of financial support available to farmers which could be used to help with implementation of the Action Programme measures. For example, funding through the Rural Development Programme for England—which is being administered by the Regional Development Agencies—could be used to support on-farm capital investments for modernising farm holdings, structures and equipment in a manner that will improve the management of manure and nutrients including, for example, the development of anaerobic digestion facilities.

Furthermore, slurry storage facilities are eligible for plant and machinery allowances such as the new annual investment allowance, capped at £50,000 per year. Slurry pits also qualify for allowances in their own right under the Capital Allowances Act 2001.

For farmers who have land in a priority catchment, the England Catchment Sensitive Farming Delivery Initiative is operating a capital grant scheme under which part-funding may be available for items such as roofs for slurry stores and for improving yard drainage (clean and foul water separation).