NFUS has described the revised proposals for water abstraction
charges as a huge step forward. NFUS met SEPA officials at the
start of the week to spell out the potential nightmare facing
potato and vegetable growers as a result of the original proposals.
NFUS officials have also been discussing the issue with MSPs,
whose assistance on this issue has been extremely important.
In an unusual step, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency
has now amended its planned charges to farmers in the middle
of the consultation period.
NFUS has stressed that it has yet to study the full detail,
but the headline figures appear to be:
- Once a farmer holds a licence, the cost of adding a new abstraction location to that will reduce from £2944 to £94.
- Annual charge for the use of a single spray irrigation pump reduces from £2232 to £446.
- The initial application charge will remain at £109 for applications before the end of 2005, £134 for those before 1 April 2006 and £2994 for applications thereafter.
NFUS Vice President Bob Howat said:
“This appears to be a massive step forward and our pressure
has paid off. We made it clear to SEPA officials at the start
of the week that the proposed charges would lead to a reduction
in Scottish potato and vegetable production. That certainly wasn’t
their intention; there simply hadn’t been enough homework
done on the original plans. It is an extremely unusual step to
change plans midway through an official consultation, but it
reflects the level of concern amongst our members. SEPA has listened
to our concerns and acted.
“Potato production relies on field rotation as good practice
to prevent disease. But the proposals would have actually encouraged
growers to do the opposite because they would have been hammered
with a £3000 charge every time production rotated. That
would have made taking on new land uneconomical.
“On the face of it, it appears we’ve won a 97% reduction
in the charge for adding new abstraction locations to an existing
licence. We need to hammer out the detail on that and double
check that abstracting water from a different watercourse, using
a different irrigator will qualify for the £94 charge.
“It must however be borne in mind that the cost of applying
for a licence to abstract water for potato and vegetable producers
is still expected to rocket from around £100 to nearly £3000
after 1 April 2006. Therefore, I would implore growers to apply
immediately to ensure they qualify for the hugely reduced charge.
However, we are still strongly challenging the huge rise from
1 April. It will be a disincentive for growers coming into the
sector. That is the last thing the authorities want given the
added emphasis being placed on healthy eating and the role vegetable
producers can play in that.”
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