When it comes to agricultural and environmental regulation and agricultural support, it’s a fair bet that environmental protection is unlikely to get any weaker, agricultural regulation is unlikely to get significantly less burdensome and support is likely to be spread more thinly.

The only thing that is certain is that there will be change. We know that the current support systems are going.  Details of successors are not yet fully understood, but an increased environmental focus seems inevitable.

Regulatory uncertainty

There is significant pressure to introduce further regulation on nutrient use and slurry storage – proposed draft regulations were published last April, but there is no indication of when,  if, or even to what extent the proposed approach is likely to be brought on to the statute books.  We will soon have no direct European control, the UK Government’s international obligations are such that, measures to reduce the climate change impact of agriculture appear inevitable.

Recent changes in legislation and its interpretation are already making life challenging for those erecting new slurry stores or livestock accommodation, just as they are for those building new housing estates, and the regulators themselves are beginning to feel the influence of the law of unintended consequences.

Across the UK, the Habitats and Species regulations 2017 and in Wales the recent adoption of the requirement for SUDS approval as part of the planning process is adding to the challenges of increasing capacity and improving performance.

In England, we have seen the Farming Rules for Water introduce a requirement for soil testing (results less than 5 years old) become mandatory for all fields in or out of an NVZ where manure or fertiliser is to be spread, and are expecting legislation aimed specifically at the dairy sector to be introduced.  Whilst the intended eventual result should be better nutrient use, better livestock accommodation, more efficient forage production and reduced environmental impact, getting there will not be a painless process.

How ADAS can help

ADAS has the expertise and experience to help resolve the apparent conflicts of regulation and business need.  Whilst the goalposts can sometimes be less than clear and occasionally move, we have succeeded in cutting through the fog and helping farmers and planning consultants sort out issues ranging from demonstrating the environmental net benefit of a move to winter housing of an outwintered dairy herd, increasing slurry storage capacity and cleaning up surface water discharges through the use of Constructed Farm Wetlands to convincing regulators of the benefits of novel approaches to silage clamp design.

In addition to bespoke consultancy services, we have introduced and revised some more traditional or conventional services – upgrading manure management plans to focus on phosphate issues for poultry producers and include rapid analysis of available N for slurries, improving integration with nutrient management plans, and undertaking land drainage reviews – helping to resolve issues of poor productivity and environmental impact associated with deteriorating land drainage systems.

If you intend your business to thrive or even simply to ensure it survives over the next 5 years, our business is making sure that you know where you stand, and help make things happen.  If we can help you with business planning, sort problems with regulators, compliance, building design, cut fertiliser costs or improve productivity, call Sian Lloyd on 01974 847000 or speak directly to Charles Bentley or Eoin Murphy below.

About the team

Charles Bentley is Technical Director of our Agriculture and Land Management team with expertise in engineering, farm infrastructure, and agricultural planning and building design.

Talk to Charles at charles.bentley@adas.co.uk or call 07768 924392.

Eoin Murphy is an agri-environment advisor with experience in environmental regulations, pollution incidents and remediation projects. He specialises in providing advice and practical solutions to the agricultural sector in a variety of areas including infrastructure, compliance with regulations, water quality and monitoring.

Talk to Eoin at eoin.murphy@adas.co.uk or call  07741 384997.