Scottish Land & Estates responded to the Scottish Government consultation that closed last week on proposed changes to the GBRs on the storage and application of fertiliser and pesticides and highlighted the potentially negative impact of the 12 degree rule.
Following recent press coverage, Richard Lochhead has sought to dispel fears that sloping land would be massively affected by saying that the proposed amendments to the General Binding Rules simply bring these rules into line with current CAP cross compliance regulations which came into effect on January 1. He said that the impact on farmers is expected to be minimal.
Highlighting that the current concern was prompted by a consultation, Richard Lochhead said “We will carefully consider the consultation responses and take a proportionate approach when amending our regulations. However, we’re not in the business of ‘gold plating’ European rules so our rules will not go any further than those already imposed from Europe”.
Scottish Government also gave assurances that the 12 degree rule would only apply to sloping land where the risk of fertiliser, slurry or organic manures entering surface water is a factor, affecting only land which is directly linked to watercourses, meaning that these regulations will have the same effect as existing cross-compliance rules.
Andrew Midgley, Senior Policy Officer said: “At present, the cross compliance rules that came into effect on 1 January take a risk-based approach to the application of fertiliser. They say that nitrogen fertiliser should not be applied to land if there is a significant risk of nitrogen entering surface water, taking into account such factors as the slope of the land (particularly if greater than 12 degrees), ground cover, proximity to any surface water, weather conditions and the type of fertiliser being applied. This allows the farmer to make an appropriate decision about the degree of risk on any given day.
“The rules consulted on recently by Scottish Government appear to go further because they amount to a blunt prohibition on the application of organic and inorganic fertilisers being applied to land with a gradient greater than 12 degrees in close proximity to surface water.
“Scottish Land & Estates fully recognises the importance of tackling pollution issues but is keen to ensure that the Scottish Government does not gold plate the rules in this area. Scottish Land & Estates will continue to seek clarity on this issue and work with other stakeholders to ensure that proportionate and practical rules are brought forward”.
For information on the new GAEC measures see: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/Doc/931/0123929.pdf
For information on the existing GBRs see the CAR Practical Guidance here: http://www.sepa.org.uk/land/agriculture/agricultural_guidance.aspx
For information on the proposed amendments to the GBRs see: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2012/03/7076