120 of Scotland’s farmers and crofters from across the country tuned into a NFU Scotland-led webinar to learn more about the proposed changes linked to the storage and application of silage, slurry, and anaerobic digestate currently being consulted upon by the Scottish government.

The discussion covered topics from the updating of existing controls for the storage of slurry and silage, and upgrading storage and setting capacity requirements, to introducing controls over the storage of materials associated with energy production and proposing new requirements regarding more targeted and efficient application of slurry and liquid digestate.

NFU Scotland members were encouraged to voice their opinions and help inform the union’s collated response to the consultation.

Describing the potential impact of the proposals, Jonnie Hall, NFU Scotland’s director of policy said:

This is a significant set of proposals from the Scottish government with the potential for major impacts on many agricultural businesses – especially dairy and more intensive beef units outside of Nitrate Vulnerable Zones [NVZs].

"It goes without saying that all farm businesses can and should play their part in helping meet climate change challenges and safeguarding our water environment."

Storage and application challenges

Hall continued:

"In particular, the storage and application of slurry typifies the challenge – but that challenge cannot be met by a purely regulatory approach which will do little to foster awareness and best practice and has the potential to impose damaging costs.

If it is in the public interest, let alone the provision of public goods, then it should not be at private cost. Instead, all farm businesses must be provided with insight and options, via the right advice and support, if the desired outcomes are to be realised.

“As we all endeavour to move to more sustainable farming systems in Scotland, as well as setting baseline standards, the Scottish government has to enable all farm types and sizes to invest – both in required capital and best practice," he added.

"The real value of the meeting was hearing first-hand the enormity of the potential impacts for different farming businesses across the country – something that is completely absent from the consultation itself.

It is clear that many face business changing or business damaging costs with no clear route to recoup.

"The collateral damage for some parts of rural Scotland is likely to outweigh any benefits the proposals might bring," he concluded.