The National Beef Association is urging the Scottish Government to reconsider proposed changes to the General Binding Rules (GBRs), drawing attention to the huge number of farms that would be affected.
Changes to GBR18 and GBR23 relate to the application of organic and inorganic fertilisers and pesticides to land with an overall gradient in excess of 12 degrees.
Hamish McBean, NBA Chairman and a farmer from Nairn, in the Highlands, says: “So much Scottish farmland would come under these new rules that it doesn’t bear thinking about. The vast majority, if not nearly all farms, will have some land with a slope of more than 12 degrees.
“I have no idea what we would do with our muck if we couldn’t spread it on this land, let alone the production losses that would be result from not being able to provide grassland and crops with the fertiliser and sprays they need. There will be knock-on effects to the wider industry too – for example, the fertiliser distributors that won’t be able to stay in business supplying such a smaller volume of product.
“The current rules and a sensible working partnership between the authorities and farmers regarding slopes, the weather and proximity to watercourses would be sufficient. Threatening our Single Farm Payment through this overly strict 12-degree rule will achieve nothing.
“The problem is that 12 degrees is so slight a slope. If you imagine a 45-degree angle, cut it in half and then in half again, that’s what we’re talking about. Just imagine how much Scottish farmland had a steeper gradient than that.”
Mr McBean also expresses anger at the very short consultation period for the “The Water Environment (Controlled Activities) (Scotland) Regulations 2011 – Proposed Amendments to General Binding Rules” paper, which was published on March 12th with a closing date around April 8th.
He says: “This is just not long enough for the industry to respond, especially when many stakeholder groups were not notified and remained unaware of the huge threat hanging over their members’ farming businesses.
“The Scottish Governments needs to reconsider these rules in conjunction with the industry and do it in a timely manner, instead of rushing to bring in rules that will have such a negative impact on farm efficiency and productivity.”
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