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Stackyard News Mar 06

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    Nitrate Vulnerable Zones - Serious Questions To Answer

There are serious questions for the Scottish Executive to answer over plans to burden farmers in Nitrate Vulnerable Zones (NVZs) with further regulation, according to NFU Scotland. Speaking after the last of five meetings on the issue, held last night in Dumfries, NFUS President John Kinnaird has challenged the authorities to prove that there is a scientific basis for the new rules.

NFUS has hosted meetings in Dumfries, Dundee, Inverurie, Kinross, and Lauder so its members could press Scottish Executive and SEPA officials on new proposed NVZ restrictions, which are expected to be put out for official consultation shortly. The proposals mainly surround restrictions on when farmers can spread manure or fertiliser and the quantity that can be applied to fields.

In the absence of hard scientific justification, NFUS has stressed that these latest proposed rules are symptomatic of an ever-increasing burden of regulation which is adding unnecessary cost and delivering little, if any, public benefit. Last month, NFUS called for an overhaul of the UK and Scottish system for implementing EU legislation and has proposed a new model to ensure that no new restrictions can be imposed without clear evidence of benefits.

NFUS President John Kinnaird said:

"Personally, I believe the NVZ designations we've had in the past are as much about appeasing Brussels as they are about delivering environmental benefit.

"The 'regulate first, ask questions later' approach of government and its authorities is hammering farms and other rural businesses. Hot on the heels of ridiculous water abstraction proposals, we have new proposed restrictions in NVZs. If that wasn't bad enough, we have one Government department banning the use of tallow as a green fuel whilst another tries to encourage renewables and we have to spend time convincing authorities that field stones are not commercial waste. It is absurd.

"Unless we see concrete proof that regulations are justifiable and will deliver benefit, we will not accept them. At the moment, I have not heard any compelling evidence out of our NVZ meetings that the latest proposed restrictions are based on sound science.

"Government and its authorities have to get their act together. We are being constructive on this issue by proposing a new model which will bring common sense back into the regulatory process. We have raised this with Jim Wallace MSP as part of his own inquiry into over-regulation and we will be meeting the Cabinet Office inquiry team next week which is looking into the same subject.

"The farming industry is not saying no to taking steps to protect the environment, but we are saying a very clear no to rules which are dressed up in those terms, but do nothing except raise revenue and harm farm sustainability."

link Question Marks Remain Over Agricultural Wages Board
link NFUS Budget Reaction
link NFUS Warns Of Possible Meat Hygiene Service Strike

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National Farmers' Union
NFU Scotland