In heavily-farmed areas, nitrates from fertilizer and animal manure are washed into waterways where the pollution causes havoc by causing a surge in the growth of plant-life, choking rivers and streams.

The re-write of the regulations also makes changes to the action plans which farmers within NVZs must follow.

Environment Minister Phil Woolas acknowledged that the changes will impact on farmers but said they were necessary to protect the environment and meet EU commitments.

“Farmers have a key role to play in ensuring that we have a thriving farming sector, and at the same time improving the impact on our environment,” he said.

“These regulations will be challenging, which is why I shall be writing very shortly to all NVZ farmers alerting them to the extensive advice and support programme which will be rolled out over the coming months, with both national and regional events as well as a dedicated helpline.

“There’s a really important debate to be had on an expanding role for anaerobic digestion, and its potential contribution to manure management. I am already in discussion with farming groups and other interested sectors about how we address the barriers to its increased take up.”

Changes to the regulations come into force on 1 January 2009, although some of the Action Programme measures have a grace period for compliance of up to three years to allow farmers time to make necessary adjustments to their farming practices, or capital investment such as storage facilities.

Sam Bond

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