The Ulster Farmers’ Union is encouraging farmers to be cautious to protect their Basic Payments
UFU Environment Policy Chairman, Wilbert Mayne said; “Farmers struggled with wet weather throughout 2017, which had a significant impact on their ability to spread slurry before the start of the closed period. Many farmers will be relieved that the 1st February is in sight, however the current wet ground and weather conditions in most parts of NI may make it difficult for farmers to spread and remain compliant with the Nitrates Action Programme rules.
“Contractors should also be careful as they too can be held responsible for breaches. Farmers are still able to use the reasonable excuse clause and if they are forced to spread in unsuitable conditions after 31 January they may still need to provide evidence that they have exhausted all efforts to manage slurry stores in order to protect their area payments. Hopefully, the wet weather will be short lived and farmers will be able to get on with field work,” he added.
The Union has also highlighted the importance of the need to be cautious with the application of farm nutrients given the on-going review by the European Commission of the Nitrates Action Programme and water quality. A new Nitrates Action Programme will be brought into force on 1 January 2019.
Mr Mayne added: “While farming to calendar dates can be frustrating, thus far farmers have risen to the challenge of complying with a complex set of Nitrates Action Programme rules and over the years have invested heavily in new tanks and spreading equipment. It is vital that local farmers act responsibly to ensure that there are no detrimental results which could result in any change to the current closed period or storage requirements as we believe that farmers in Northern Ireland could not live with any extension.”