Designated sites a major worry in ammonia strategy, says Ulster Farmers' Union

Following further scrutiny of DAERA’s draft ammonia strategy by the Ulster Farmers’ Union committees, members are “extremely uptight” regarding proposed targeted measures on international designated sites.

This includes a ban on spreading manure within 50m of an internationally designated site by January 2025 and a requirement for all slurry within 1km of an internationally designated site to be spread by low emission slurry spreading equipment (LESSE) by January 2025 with the potential for other enhanced measures.

UFU president, David Brown, commented: “With the majority of Northern Ireland’s coast, loughs, hills and river systems listed as designated sites, the targeted measures focused on these specific areas has the potential to seriously hinder farming activities and impact a significant number of farmers financially.

“Ammonia is typically seen as a livestock problem, but all sectors will be affected with large areas of arable land being potentially caught up in the proposed policy. This is something that many farmers are completely unaware of and DAERA haven’t even bothered to do any modelling on the potential costs to the farms in these areas.”

Members are "extremely uptight" regarding proposed targeted measures on international designated sites.
Members are "extremely uptight" regarding proposed targeted measures on international designated sites.
Members are "extremely uptight" regarding proposed targeted measures on international designated sites.

In the consultation document, DAERA state that they want to encourage ‘traditional farming practices’ in these areas but do not elaborate on this, leaving farmers extremely worried that their activities close to designated sites will be severely restricted.

Mr Brown added: “DAERA’s reference to ‘traditional farming practices’ is somewhat insulting to farmers and also suggests a lack of understanding about potential unintended consequences. Farmers simply do not have the financial means to suddenly stop managing areas of land and DAERA need to go back to the drawing board with some of these proposals.”

The UFU is also concerned about plans to phase out splash plates on all farms.

“LESSE is extremely expensive to purchase with no firm commitment to financial support being made by DAERA. If a contractor needs to be used as an alternative, smaller farmers tend to be put to the end of a long list, losing their flexibility to spread slurry during the most optimum conditions. This proposal will hit smaller farmers hard across NI and needs to be re-examined by DAERA,” the president stated.

With the deadline for consultation responses on the ammonia strategy fast approaching on 3 March 2023, the UFU is urging all NI farmers to make their voices known.

Mr Brown continued: “The majority of farmers across NI are going to be impacted by this ammonia strategy regardless of what they farm. The proposed measures have the potential to cause serious issues and it’s important that every farmer makes their concerns known. We encourage everyone to attend the DAERA meetings next week to help ensure that appropriate changes are made to this proposed ammonia strategy.

“The UFU will be finalising its response at the end of the month. We ask members to feed their views through their committee representatives for inclusion and we will be making it clear that many of the proposals are unacceptable in their current form,” said the UFU president.

The DAERA meetings are scheduled for Monday 13 February at Greenmount Campus beginning at 7.30pm, and Wednesday 15 February at Loughry Campus at 7.30pm.

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