Calls for ‘joined-up’ approach to ammonia reduction

The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) has called for a ‘joined-up’ approach to reduce ammonia in response to Defra’s Clean Air Strategy consultation, which closed yesterday (14 August).

The NFU gathered the views of its members to submit a detailed response explaining solutions to achieve cleaner air alongside productive, sustainable food production.

NFU Environment Forum chairman Mark Pope said Defra needs to use the best available data so that Government and industry action is most effectively targeted.

“We have welcomed the opportunity to respond to the Government’s Clean Air Strategy and strongly believe that farmers are in a great position to contribute towards Government’s ambitions on this,” he said.

“In our response we have set out detailed and technical solutions, highlighting the need to address barriers to change. We made clear the need for advice and guidance and for adequate investment in measurement.

“We believe it’s essential to have confidence in the data collection of air pollutants so farmers can have a robust knowledge of the current situation and can chart progress.

The NFU is calling on Defra to consider alternatives to additional regulation and, in particular, work with the industry on improving farm practice to minimise ammonia emissions first before considering a ban or imposing limits.

“It’s essential that we have a joined-up approach to ensure that any new measures to address ammonia do not create perverse environmental outcomes in other ways.”

Permitting system for dairy

The consultation proposes a permitting system in the dairy sector, similar to the system applying to pigs and poultry – potentially costing thousands of pounds for a permit and additional investment.

In its response, the NFU said it is “strongly opposed” to this.

NFU Dairy Board chairman Michael Oakes said: “Like all industries, the dairy sector has a role to play in improving air quality, but we do not believe permitting dairy farms is the right way to deliver for the environment or productivity.

“Without a full economic impact assessment – including a look at lessons learnt from permitting pig and poultry businesses – policy-makers could severely hamper the sector by imposing regulation that may result in a contraction of the industry.

“The dairy industry’s commitment to improving its environmental performance has been demonstrated through The Dairy Roadmap, but we believe that further progress can be delivered through:

  • A better system of knowledge exchange and advice;
  • Optimising the evidence base – including an assessment and acknowledgement of mitigation techniques already in use;
  • A full impact and economic assessment on what permitting would mean for the dairy sector; and
  • Targeted financial support to aid the uptake of ammonia mitigation practices.

“The NFU is eager to work closely with Defra on improving data and developing a pragmatic approach to addressing ammonia emissions, taking into account both farm productivity and livestock needs to deliver a solution that works for both the environment and the dairy industry.”