Farmers will face new restrictions on the storage and use of fertilisers and manure, under the Government’s new Clean Air strategy, which was published today.
But the Government will be offering support under the new post-Brexit agricultural policy to incentivise good practice and support farmers in adapting to the new requirements.
The strategy sets out measures across all sectors of the economy and society to help meet ambitious long-term targets for reducing people’s exposure to the most damaging pollutants.
Defra Secretary Michael Gove said: “The evidence is clear. While air quality has improved significantly in recent years, air pollution continues to shorten lives, harm our children and reduce quality of life. We must take strong, urgent action.”
You can view the strategy here
There are a number of recommendations relating directly to farming, including:
New rules on specific emissions reducing practices
- A requirement to take action to reduce emissions from urea-based fertilisers. Defra will consult on this policy in 2019 with a view to introducing legislation in the shortest possible timeframe.
- A requirement for all solid manure and solid digestate spread to bare land (other than that managed in a no-till system) to be incorporated rapidly (within 12 hours) with legislation to be introduced in the shortest possible timeframe.
- A requirement to spread slurries and digestate using low-emission spreading equipment (trailing shoe or trailing hose or injection) by 2025. Defra will also consider options for phasing in this requirement.
- A requirement for slurry and digestate stores to be covered by 2027. Defra will also consider options for phasing in this requirement. Defra has, however, abandoned the idea of covering muck heaps.
- Mandatory design standards for new intensive poultry, pig and beef livestock housing and for dairy housing. The standards will be designed in collaboration with industry experts and will include design features to improve animal health and welfare and minimise environmental pollution to air (including greenhouse gas emissions), water and land as far as practicable.
Defra said it would consult on each policy as quickly as possible to provide the industry with certainty on the investments needed. It pledged to design a regulatory approach that enables adoption of alternative proven and verifiable techniques for achieving equivalent or greater emissions reductions.
Regulation to minimise pollution from organic and inorganic fertiliser use
Defra will task an expert group including agricultural policy experts, agronomists, scientists and economists to make recommendations on the optimal form of regulation to minimise pollution from fertiliser use.
The recommendations should prioritise the use of organic fertilisers, limiting ammonia emissions, GHG emissions and water pollution and protecting sensitive habitats at least in line with government commitments.
Extension of environmental permitting to dairy and intensive beef farms by 2025
Unlike the pig and poultry sectors, ammonia emissions from dairy and intensive beef farms are not currently regulated. Given their contribution to ammonia emissions and other pollutants, Defra will work with the industry to agree appropriate emission limits and Best Available Technique (BAT) documents for limiting pollution from these sectors.
The document also confirms that support will be provided for farmers to invest in infrastructure and equipment to help reduce emissions, an approach welcomed by the NPA.
Natural England is currently examining options to improve the effectiveness of incentive schemes for mitigating ammonia emissions to air and protecting natural ecosystems. In addition, Defra has commissioned further work to investigate how these habitats might be protected most effectively through new environmental land management schemes.
NPA policy services officer Lizzie Wilson said: “There is not a great amount of detail yet on how all this will work – that will hopefully come in consultations, some of which we can expect to see soon.
“But overall what is proposed appears sensible and we believe there is nothing in there to cause any major problems for pig businesses. We very much welcome Defra’s commitment to working with industry to put this strategy in practice and to provide financial support to help businesses adapt to the changes.”
CLA Chief Land Use Policy Adviser Susan Twining said: “It is clear that the agricultural industry must play a major role in reducing ammonia emissions and delivering improved air quality. Farmers and land managers are already taking measures but with this government commitment to fund infrastructure and equipment and through the Government’s Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS), they can make an even greater contribution.
“Funding for new technology and research will pave the way for more sustainable production systems and the advice offered by the Government in line with the rewards through ELMS will help farmers adapt and invest in the changes needed.”