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Farmers fear special zone ‘threat’

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By Fiona Reid
Farmers fear special zone 'threat'

FARMERS in the west of the region have launched a campaign against stricter controls on spreading fertilisers.

Agricultural land in the low-lying Piltanton Burn area, near Stranraer, has been designated to become Scotland’s latest Nitrate Vulnerable Zone (NVZ).

They are created under an EU Directive in areas where water courses are thought to be at greater risk from agricultural nitrate pollution.

Dumfries and Galloway’s only existing NVZ is an area of Lower Nithsdale.

Farmers’ union, NFU Scotland, is backing members in the planned new zone, who fear the special status would disrupt agricultural activities, adding paperwork and costs.

Writing to the Scottish Parliament environment committee, NFU officials argue that reducing nitrate levels can be fully achieved through voluntary, rather than mandatory measures.

Nitrate, which can increase grass and crop growth, can be found in branded mixed fertilizers, slurry and natural livestock manure.

NFU official Gary Mitchell, who farms near Stranraer, said: “We have voluntarily instigated a programme of capital investment and management changes which has already delivered a significant downward trend in nitrate levels.”

The farm union’s policy chief Andrew Bauer also hailed self-regulation as the most effective solution.

He said: “With low prices and the prospect of reduced and lower CAP payments, the imposition of further regulation and paperwork could leave many farmers in the area questioning the future viability of their businesses.”

Politicians, officials and scientists behind the EU Directive contend that NVZs are an effective way of reducing the risk of nitrate pollution.


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