The Farming Rules for Water were introduced in recent years to simplify the management of farm inputs, but in many circumstances they have left farmers unsure of their obligations. Whilst many of the rules are relatively routine, Rule 1 requires manure applications to be carefully planned and importantly, prohibits the spreading of organic manure when there is not a crop need.

During the autumn and winter season, there are very few crops that DEFRA consider have a nutrient demand and therefore spreading in this period in most cases is not legal.

Current compliance relating to slurry/manure storage requires at least four months of capacity (or 22 weeks of storage capacity if you are situated within an NVZ – nitrate vulnerable zone). Over coming years there is a requirement for storage capacity to be increased further to at least six months.
Fortunately, if you do not have capacity for the 2021/2022 winter, you may be able to use an exemption issued by the Environment Agency up until March 2022. This exemption is known as RPS 252.
Under RPS 252, you are required to show that the requirement to spread the manure is the last resort, you must be able show that you cannot feasibly follow the below listed steps within your manure contingency plan:

  • Store the organic manure at the place of production
  • Store the organic manure at the place of use
  • Send the organic manure to an off-site anaerobic digestion plant or other effluent treatment plant
  • Store the organic manure off-site

If your contingency plan reasonably shows that the above points are unachievable, then you may be able to use this exemption. However, any subsequent spreading must be within the Farming Rules for Water guidance on land at low risk of leaching and run off, when the weather and ground conditions allow, and at an application rate that allows no more than 5kg/ha of nitrates to be leached.

The Environment Agency are actively enforcing the rules and must be notified of your intention to use the exemption on land for this season and look to resolve a lack of storage capacity over the coming year. If you require advice of applying for an exemption, planning a future store and wish to discuss the potential for grant aid, please contact Agricultural Surveyors James Wotton on 01404 46222 or Jamie Batt on 01935 415300.