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Stackyard News Dec 05

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    Pressure Pays Off As SEPA Amends Water Charges


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.”

link Water Abstraction Talks Continue
link NFU Scotland Submits Views On Water Abstraction
link Further Success For Orkney 'Farming For The Future' Project

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