Farm at centre of legal wrangle over NVZ rules
A NORTH Devon farm is at the centre of a legal action to fight European rules which are costing the agricultural industry millions.
The result of the appeal, expected any day, will have national significance mainly for dairy farmers.
The farmer believes he has been wrongly blamed for pollution in the Taw Estuary.
Part of the appeal case is that more than 350 sources of waste discharge into the estuary, but that agriculture is being made to take much of the responsibility.
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The appeal farmer, and his supporters, fear that EU pressure and not science will prevail in the judgement.
The hearing before a judge was held in Barnstaple at the end of January, and challenged the designation of the farm, near Barnstaple, as being within a Nitrate Vulnerable Zone (NVZ).
Since 2008 all farms within these zones have been obliged to build huge slurry stores that can hold five months worth of livestock waste; they are restricted in when and where they spread slurry and they must keep extra records on their slurry management and fertiliser use.
The cost can run to as much as £100,000 for an individual farm.
The appellant farmer told the Journal he is reluctant to be identified and he represents the dairy industry in general.
He's supported by the NFU and the Farmers Benevolent Fund.
He said: "I'm trying to achieve fair play for agriculture and dairy farms.
"But I'm concerned that it will be a political decision as opposed to fair play.
"There is tremendous pressure coming from Europe on NVZs and I think that agriculture is a soft touch.
"They [politicians and Europe] impose their will on us more than the rest of society. "We are small in numbers and a group they have been happy to bash."
He said that the estuary is subject to raw sewage discharges so numerous that there is no reasonable case to single out agriculture for special measures.
The case against the designation of NVZ in the Taw catchment is in an unusual category, focused on eutrophication, ie, damage from excessive nitrogen and phosphates.
This excess causes the appearance of algae and plankton in rivers and lakes instead of more complex plants.
Eutrophication causes a severe reduction in water quality and is the result of sewage and other effluents.
The NFU's environment advisor, Paul Cottington, has supported the appeal.
Mr Cottington said: "This is very important for our members.
"The way the NVZ is designated should be correct and farmers should not be unfairly burdened when they are not culpable."