‘Consider farm safety in run up to deadline’

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YFCU President James Speers has reiterated the Ulster Farmers’ Union President’s statement on the upcoming slurry spreading closed period.

He said: “The closed period for slurry spreading is due to commence at midnight on 15 October however the recent wet weather has made it extremely difficult to spread slurry safely on many farms across Northern Ireland.

“I am echoing UFU President Barclay Bell’s comments reassuring farmers that if they are unable to get their slurry out before the 15th October, they may be able to spread slurry during the closed period under the ‘reasonable excuse’ clause in the Northern Ireland Nitrates Action Programme (NAP). This covers exceptional circumstances when, through no fault of their own, farmers cannot fully comply with the rules.”

The YFCU President added: “I am also urging all farmers to keep safety in the forefront of their minds when they are mixing slurry. Slurry gas can be released very quickly and in large quantities as soon as the mixing starts. The first 30 minutes are the most dangerous, so it is important to remove all stock from the shed before mixing starts and for farmers to leave the building as soon as the mixing starts. It is also vitally important to stay out of the shed for at least 30 minutes after the mixing starts.”

UFU President Barclay Bell commented: “The reasonable excuse clause is as a last resort. No farmer wants to risk their basic payment by spreading slurry during the closed period. However, the current ground and weather conditions are making compliance impossible and some farmers may be left with no other choice. It is better to spread slurry during the closed period under this clause at a time when conditions are more favourable than rush and risk a farm accident or pollution.

“There is no need to notify DAERA or NIEA before spreading under the reasonable excuse clause. We recommend including photos or videos of weather and ground conditions and rainfall data. The UFU has a template that farmers can use to record this information and staff can assist members with completing this. This must be available if you are inspected by NIEA.”

For more information about using the reasonable excuse clause visit www.ufuni.org or contact UFU HQ on 02890 370 222.