Waste Management

  • How Is the UK Cracking Down on Farming Pollution?

How Is the UK Cracking Down on Farming Pollution?

Jun 28 2018 Read 985 Times

The Environment Secretary Michael Gove has announced plans to curb emissions of ammonia from agricultural practices, which is responsible for almost 90% of all ammonia emissions in the country. Part of a wider strategy to improve air quality in the UK, the proposals target storage and application of manure, slurry and fertiliser and will impact dairy and livestock farmers more than any other sector.

A wide-ranging response

Having come under severe criticism from environmentalists and opposition politicians, the government have taken a tougher line on green issues this year. Just months after Michael Gove announced an outright ban on neonicotinoids – the widely-used pesticides which have been linked to a global threat to biodiversity – he has now published a draft of the government’s Clean Air Strategy.

Encompassing measures to tackle road pollution and other areas of concern, the paper will also target emissions from farming practices, with a particular focus on ammonia. It’s hoped that the proposals will be passed into law following a public consultation which ends in August, and that they can save the UK economy £1 billion in air pollution mitigation costs by 2020. By 2030, those savings are projected to rise to as much as £2.5 billion.

Agriculture bears the brunt

The latest revelations will impact farmers who rear cattle for dairy produce and beef production, and encompass a number of measures including the following:

  • The mandatory use of urea-inhibitors when applying urea by 2020
  • The mandatory application of all solid digestate and manure to fields within a maximum of 12 hours by 2022
  • New design standards for housing of dairy, pig and poultry by 2022
  • Replication of controls currently in place on pig and poultry farms for livestock farms by 2025
  • All stores of digestate, manure and slurry to be covered by 2027
  • The mandatory use of trailing hose, trailing shoe or injection equipment when spreading digestate and slurry by 2027
  • The imposition of upper thresholds for organic and inorganic fertiliser use
  • The requirement that farmers make necessary investments in their agricultural infrastructure, with subsidised support from the government
  • Improved code of regulations to keep ammonia emissions in check
  • A specific fund set up to finance conservation effects for land adversely affected by ammonia

Pushback from the industry

For their part, the farming community have responded to the announcement with caution and concern. By and large, the feeling is that the new measures will make farming unprofitable due to the costs incurred, which will either have to be footed by the government or passed on to the consumer.

“All I see is pound signs here. The reality is, we’re being brought down an environmental route that we cannot actually operate in and produce in,” explained Chris Mallon, CEO of the National Beef Association (NBA). “If we produce less and the price goes up, it might be good for the farmer. But how will this sit with the government and its cheap food policy?”

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