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New strategy aims to help farmers reduce pollution from ammonia emissions

The government's Clean Air Strategy aims to reduce pollution including agricultural ammonia emissions. Picture: Nick Butcher

The government's Clean Air Strategy aims to reduce pollution including agricultural ammonia emissions. Picture: Nick Butcher

Archant © 2009

Government payments to help farmers reduce ammonia pollution have been greeted as "encouraging" by agricultural leaders in East Anglia.

Defra says agriculture is responsible for 88pc of all UK emissions of ammonia, which can be released into the atmosphere from agricultural sources like slurry, rotting farm waste and fertiliser, and can combine with other pollutants to form fine particulate matter (PM) which is harmful to human health.

The department has launched its long-awaited Clean Air Strategy, which will provide farmers with support to invest in infrastructure and equipment to reduce emissions of the gas.

Funding has been made available through the Countryside Productivity Scheme to help farmers buy manure management equipment including low-emission spreaders, while the Countryside Stewardship Scheme will have funding options for slurry tank and lagoon covers in priority water catchments.

In September, the government launched a £3m programme through the Catchment Sensitive Farming (CSF) partnership to fund a team of specialists to give farmers training, tailored advice, and support with grant applications. And Defra also proposed that future environmental land management schemes, as set out in the draft Agriculture Bill, should fund targeted action to protect habitats impacted by ammonia.

Farming minister George Eustice said: “Our future agriculture policy will involve financial rewards and incentives to help farmers reduce their ammonia emissions.”

READ MORE: Farmers must prepare for crackdown on ammonia pollution ‘before the carrot turns into a stick’

Rob Wise environment adviser for the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) in East Anglia, said air quality was an issue which the region’s farmers took seriously, with “good progress” already being made.

“Over the past 30 years the industry has reduced ammonia emissions on farm by 10pc through good practice in managing soil, manure, fertiliser and feed, but we recognise that more is required to reach the ambitious targets this new strategy sets,” he said.

“Farmers can improve their infrastructure and their management to get additional emissions reductions but this all comes at a cost. So it is encouraging that government will provide farmers with the support they need in areas such as slurry storage and low emission spreading equipment.

“These investments take time and we are concerned that the timescales proposed could put financial strain on businesses. It is incorrect to assume that larger operations are better equipped to make these changes more quickly than others in the sector.”

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