THE NEW draft ammonia strategy could cost Fermanagh farmers tens of thousands, forcing many to turn to contractors if they cannot afford the new equipment required.
That was the message from Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) president David Brown last week when asked about why farmers were so worried about the new draft plan, which was published at the start of the month.
As reported by the Herald last week, the consultation into DAERA’s draft ammonia strategy – which is aimed at reducing ammonia emissions in the agricultural industry – is now open and local farmers are being urged to respond.
The UFU had already expressed its concern about the long-awaited strategy, and speaking on Radio Ulster’s Farming Matters last week Florencecourt man Mr Brown elaborated on what its proposals could mean for local farmers.
Noting the UFU recognised the need to reduce ammonia emissions, and was willing to work towards this, he stressed that the main issue was that the cost of the plan would be borne by the farmers themselves.
For example, he noted the new slurry spreading equipment that farmers will be required to use, which is just one of many parts of the plan, would cost in the region of £30,000.
He said this may be achievable for larger farms, “it is a huge cost at farm level and smaller farms may find that a huge difficulty and obstacle.”
He added, “If you have a small farm that uses a traditional slurry tanker the cost of investing in this equipment is prohibitive, I would suggest, so they are probably perhaps going to have to turn to a contractor, and the difficulty there is if you have a small farm the contractors tend to run to the bigger farms.
“That’s going to be a challenge but look, we’re going to make all those points in our response to these measures that are being put forward.”
Mr Brown noted costs will be racking up elsewhere, too, such as with fertiliser requirements.
“Some of the talk there about obviously prohibition of the use of urea fertiliser unless it has an inhibitor, that’s more expense per tonne of fertiliser, and we all know the cost of fertiliser went through the roof last year with the war in Ukraine. So that’s another added cost,” he said.
When asked if this could push some farmers out of business, Mr Brown said, “I don’t think it’s for any of us to tell farmers that this is going to be the last straw that breaks the camel’s back. Fundamentally, farmers over many years seem to be resilient and want to keep farming in most cases.
“But equally, some of the equipment, some of the things that have been used, used to having and making use of, will no longer be feasible.”
Those who wish to have their say on the ammonia strategy can take part in the consultation, which closes on March 3rd, at: www.daera-ni.gov.uk/consultations.
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