SEPA’s pragmatic approach to the problem of slurry spreading

date27 November 2017

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) has committed to working with Scottish land managers impacted by prolonged rainfall, waterlogged ground conditions and the storage of excess slurry.

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The issue, which has impacted livestock managers across Scotland, is similar to events in 2011 where unseasonably high rainfall over the summer period placed considerable pressure on their activities. This preventing forage crops from being harvested and livestock being housed earlier than normal, which resulted in slurry stores on livestock farms filling quickly, with no suitable land on which it to apply it. 

Whilst spreading on saturated or waterlogged ground is routinely not permitted by SEPA, due to potential impacts on nearby rivers and burns, the agency recognises that land managers have struggled to spread in compliance with requirements due to 140% of Scotland’s long term average rainfall (418.6mm) falling in summer 2017.

With further prolonged heavy rainfall expected over the winter period, SEPA officers are committed to helping land managers alleviate the pressure on their storage capacity by working on a case-by-case basis to offer pragmatic guidance on when, where and how spreading should occur to minimise environmental impacts.

Terry A'Hearn, Chief Executive of SEPA, said:

“In remaining firmly focused on protecting and enhancing Scotland’s environment, we recognise that prolonged rainfall and ongoing waterlogged ground conditions continue to impact the farming community’s ability to spread in compliance with our requirements.

“With heavy rainfall continuing into the winter period and storage facilities nearing capacity, the risk of spreading could unintentionally cause significant pollution, if not managed correctly. 

“Against that backdrop, and liaison with National Farmers Union Scotland (NFU Scotland), SEPA officers will work proactively with Scottish land managers to find sensible, evidence based solutions to relieve pressure on slurry storage in ways that minimise environmental impacts.”

NFU Scotland’s Deputy Director of Policy, Andrew Bauer said:

“NFU Scotland welcomes SEPA’s recognition that the situation for many of Scotland’s farmers remains very challenging and that it wants to help those in difficulty with slurry storage and spreading find pragmatic but responsible solutions. NFU Scotland urges any farmer who is facing such challenges to contact SEPA and agree a course of action.”

For individual advice on how to spread slurry safely, land managers are encouraged to contact 03000 99 66 99 to speak with a local SEPA officer regarding specific issues or to arrange a farm visit.  

SEPA is a member of the Scottish Government’s newly established Weather Advisory Panel, recently announced by Minister for Rural Economy and Connectivity, Fergus Ewing. The panel will help to promote best practice and provide strategic resilience to Scotland’s agricultural community during adverse weather events.

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