The Ulster Farmers’ Union is urging farmers to be ‘cautious’ to protect their Basic Payment from the EU as poor ground conditions are preventing many farmers from spreading slurry, as the closed period for spreading slurry approaches on October 15.
With Northern Ireland experiencing a prolonged stretch of wet weather it is causing major problems for farmers across the province. Silage hasn’t been cut. Harvest has been delayed. Cattle have had to be housed much earlier than usual and many farmers have slurry to spread but have been unable to do so, all because of the wet weather.
Farmers do have the option of using the ‘reasonable excuse’ clause for spreading slurry, which covers exceptional circumstances when, through no fault of their own, they cannot fully comply with the rules. The UFU secured the inclusion of this clause during negotiations in the Northern Ireland Nitrates Action Programme. This may be an option for farmers but documentation may be required and this must be available. The UFU can also assist members with this process and template forms are available from UFU Group Offices.
However, the UFU is also warning farmers that European Commission officials do have concerns about the current rules and have scrutinised the monitoring of spreading practices and water quality data. Brussels will be keeping a close eye on closed period compliance and could demand extra storage if farmers are continually struggling. The industry cannot afford to have more restrictions or additional storage requirements imposed so it is vital that farmers can show they acted responsibly.