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Cattle directive is manure, struggling farmers fume.

Byline: By Ben Goldby

The flood-ravaged Midland farming industry will suffer another "nail in the coffin" as new EU regulations threaten the future of some cattle farmers, it was claimed yesterday.

The beef business alone is worth pounds 130 million a year in the region and the Midlands is home to one-in-seven of the dairy cows which make up Britain's pounds 7.6 billion milk industry.

Government proposals to comply with EU regulations on nitrate pollution could cost local livestock farmers tens of thousands of pounds if they are forced to build facilities to store slurry from their animals.

The EU Nitrates Directive could see 70 per cent of farms across Britain designated as "nitrate vulnerable zones", which would mean they had to control the amount of waste produced by their cattle.

After a summer of floods, poor weather and foot and mouth restrictions, Midland farmers said this could be the final straw for the livestock industry.

David Morgan, a cattle farmer in Herefordshire, said: "We already have nitrogen sensitive zones in the area at present.

"Any tightening of nitrate restrictions for the livestock industry would be a problem. We have closed windows of time for the application of manures, but obviously manure will still be produced so we have to store it somewhere.

"The biggest problem is that the industry can't afford the capital cost of installing storage for the slurry. Nobody minds investing in an industry that is thriving, but at the moment we are in for a rough ride so people are reluctant to invest. Cereal prices are high and we are still dealing with the aftermath and cost of the floods.

"As they bring the nitrogen level down, crop outputs will fall and prices will go up.

"Basically it will be another nail in the coffin for Midland farmers. Producers will leave the industry and dairy and beef farmers will be leaving their farms.

"It is just like any other business, it is another overhead for us and the business is going to suffer."

Mr Morgan said most farms in the Midlands would fit the directive's criteria of having one cow per acre. Those farms which meet the criteria could face extensions to restrictions on manure use, limits on nitrogen application to crops and the prohibition of high-pressure manure spreading techniques.

The National Farmers' Union has called for a review of the "disproportionate" proposals for implementing the new directive.

NFU President Peter Kendall said: "I am concerned that for some this may be the final straw. I am all for farmers reducing their impact on the environment, but we must ensure that affected farms are given time to adapt and remain viable businesses.

"We will be seeking substantial changes to the action programme and a package of assistance that will help farmers meet the demanding requirements of the directive."

By Ben Goldby
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Aug 24, 2007
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