70% of England designated as Nitrate Vulnerable Zone

About 70% of England needs to be designated as a Nitrate Vulnerable Zone (NVZ), according to a Defra consultation response published yesterday.

The NFU has been fighting the Nitrates Directive since the EU put it to member states for discussion, saying that the huge costs will vastly outweigh any marginal benefits.

In a press release published yesterday lunchtime, Defra outlined the key points of its submission: England will continue to designate NVZs on a selective basis, based on scientific evidence, rather than adopt the whole territory approach of some member states. Following the recent review, about 70% of England needs to be designated - up from 55% - and around 1.5% of areas will be de-designated.

The proposal for cover crops to reduce run-off from bare ground has been dropped and the government will pursue a derogation from the European Commission on the 170 kg/ha whole farm nitrogen loading limit.

Closed periods and storage capacity will remain as set out in the consultation, but there will be transitional arrangements for meeting the requirements. Further work will be undertaken to assess whether the risk of nitrate loss in winter months extends to January

At the same time, a package of advice will be provided, including workshops and a helpline, to support farmers in making changes. Slurry storage facilities will be eligible for tax allowances on capital costs, up to £50,000 per year

In addition, maps of NVZs and guidance on the Action programme measures will be published alongside the regulations in September

Defra is now developing plans for appeals against designation. Further details will be published in due course.

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