Slurry ban’s ‘reasonable excuse’: Everything you need to know

Northern farmers have been given an eleventh hour reprieve from the slurry ban with the ‘reasonable excuse‘ clause in the Nitrates Action Programme (NAP).

The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) is urging farmers to use the clause which allows a limited amount of slurry to be spread after the closed period begins on October 15, as a “last resort” and to act responsibly.

It has clarified that Northern Irish farmers can use the ‘reasonable excuse’ clause to spread slurry during closed period without notifying the department or NIEA (Northern Ireland Environment Agency).

But farmers must only use the clause in ‘exceptional’ cases, where they have taken all other reasonable steps to empty their tanks.

Farmers are warned to act responsibly, to spread on flat land where possible and to wait until the weather dries up. They are also being asked to spread just enough to maintain their slurry storage until the ban ends, for fear that further legislation is added to the existing regulations.

Here’s the main points the UFU says farmers need to know if they are thinking of using the ‘reasonable excuse’ clause:

  • The ‘reasonable excuse’ clause only applies in Northern Ireland. Farmers in the Republic come under slightly different legislation;
  • You do NOT have to notify NIEA or DAERA when you are forced to spread slurry during the closed period;
  • There is no deadline for the spreading of slurry under the clause of ‘reasonable excuse’;
  • Keep records (pictures/videos of weather and ground conditions, rainfall data) and be able to produce them if inspected by NIEA. The UFU has created a NIEA approved template to help farmers keep records. Available from HQ or local group offices;
  • Ensure you meet the minimum legal requirements for slurry storage on your farm: 26 weeks for pigs and poultry and 22 weeks for other enterprises;
  • Be able to show that slurry has been properly managed outside the closed period and been spread appropriately;
  • Ensure clean storm water is being diverted away from slurry tanks;
  • Ensure you have exhausted all other alternatives such as renting extra storage space or using straw bedding;
  • When spreading, take steps to protect against water pollution such as increasing the distance spread from water or spreading on flatter fields;
  • Spread the minimum necessary to prove sufficient capacity, to manage it until the end of the closed period.

For more information about using the reasonable excuse clause visit: www.ufuni.org. Farmers can also contact UFU headquarters on: 028 90 370 222.

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