ENVIRONMENT Minister Alex Attwood has reminded farmers that the closed period for slurry spreading will commence at midnight on Monday 15 October. He also highlighted that farmers will be able to spread slurry after 15 October, where there is a reasonable excuse to do so.
The Minister is stressing that this option is available to farmers, not least given the further bad weather on Thursday. Minister Attwood stressed: “Farmers who rely on the defence of a ‘reasonable excuse’ in relation to the spreading of organic manures and non compliance with the closed period must be able to provide evidence showing the need to spread slurry given bad weather conditions.
“I am repeating and stressing that this option is available, given the further bad weather on Thursday. Evidence would be expected to show that a farmer managed their slurry properly, had taken all reasonable steps to manage the situation and there was no alternative but to spread slurry during the closed period.
“If there is no alternative to land spreading in the closed period it would be expected that tanks would not be totally emptied but only enough slurry removed to provide adequate containment for immediate needs. The other land application restrictions (such as not spreading on waterlogged soils, or within 10m of a watercourse) as set out in the Nitrates Action Programme Regulations will generally be adhered with.
“My Department and I will work with farmers to ensure that all who can rightly claim the defence of reasonable excuse are able to do so. I have made it very clear that DOE and NIEA must be and be seen to be helpful to farmers. This option worked well last year – I want it to work even better this year so that those who rely on the reasonable excuse defence can show that this was their only course of action and do not trip over any EU compliance issue.”