Farming News - Government to help farmers tackle air pollution in new clean air strategy

Government to help farmers tackle air pollution in new clean air strategy

14 Jan 2019

The government has launched an ambitious new strategy to clean up our air - which includes a commitment to support farmers’ efforts to tackle air pollution.

Image of the North York Moors National Park.

Agriculture is responsible for 88% of UK emissions of ammonia gas which can travel long distances, be damaging to the environment, and combine with other pollutants to form fine Particulate Matter pollution, which are harmful to human health.

The measures set out in the Clean Air Strategy will help cut the costs of air pollution to society by £1.7 billion every year by 2020, rising to £5.3 billion every year from 2030.

Farming Minister, George Eustice said:

“Ammonia emissions can have a significant impact on the environment and on our health, and as custodians of the land, farmers have an important role to play in reducing them.

“Our future agriculture policy will involve financial rewards and incentives to help farmers reduce their ammonia emissions.”

Under the new strategy the Government will provide farmers with support to invest in infrastructure and equipment to reduce emissions and will work with industry to encourage low emission, holistic farming techniques.

Funding has been available through the Countryside Productivity Scheme to help farmers purchase manure management equipment including low-emission spreaders and the scheme is due to run again in 2019. Funding is also available through the Countryside Stewardship Scheme for slurry tank and lagoon covers for farmers in priority water catchments.

In September 2018 the government launched a new £3 million programme through the Catchment Sensitive Farming (CSF) partnership to fund a team of specialists who work with farmers and landowners in priority areas to provide training events, tailored advice, individual farm visits and support with grant applications.

Our Agriculture Bill already sets out how future financial support for the farming sector will be focussed on delivering improvements to the environment.  We propose that a future environmental land management system should fund targeted action to protect habitats impacted by ammonia. Natural England are already examining options to improve the effectiveness of schemes for mitigating ammonia emissions in protecting these habitats.  

Key measures to control ammonia emissions from farming:
● covering slurry and digestate stores or using slurry bags
● using low emissions techniques for spreading slurries and digestate on land (for example, by injection, trailing shoe or trailing hose)
● incorporating manures into bare soils within 12 hours of spreading
● washing down animal collection points soon after use
● ensuring that levels of protein in livestock diets are well matched to nutritional needs
● switching from urea based fertilisers to ammonium nitrate, which has lower emissions, injecting or incorporating urea into soil or applying it alongside a urease inhibitor

Rules will be introduced on specific emissions reducing practices including:

  • a requirement to take action to reduce emissions from urea-based fertilisers. We will consult on this policy in 2019 with a view to introducing legislation in the shortest possible timeframe
  • a requirement for all solid manure and solid digestate spread to bare land (other than that managed in a no-till system) to be incorporated rapidly (within 12 hours) with legislation to be introduced in the shortest possible timeframe
  • a requirement to spread slurries and digestate using low-emission spreading equipment (trailing shoe or trailing hose or injection) by 2025. We will also consider options for phasing in this requirement so that those
    spreading digestate or large volumes of slurry may be required to adopt the practice at an earlier date
  • a requirement for slurry and digestate stores to be covered by 2027. We will consider options for phasing in this requirement so that those producing or storing digestate or large volumes of slurry may be required
  • mandatory design standards for new intensive poultry, pig and beef livestock housing and for dairy housing. The standards will be designed in collaboration with industry experts and will include design features to improve animal health and welfare and minimise environmental pollution to air (including greenhouse gas emissions), water and land as far as practicable

Marian Spain, Natural England Interim Chief Executive said:

“Natural England has a team of experts poised to support farmers to take action which will help improve our environment and safeguard our precious natural habitats from the damaging effects of nitrogen pollution.

“We are committed to making sure that future agriculture schemes mean farmers businesses can work in harmony with the natural environment and ensure wildlife can be enjoyed by future generations. And Natural England teams are already, through the Catchment Sensitive Farming programme, working on the ground providing essential advice and guidance to farmers to tackle pollution to water, land and the air.”

With partners, Natural England will be running a series of farm demonstration events in February and March to show what can be done to reduce ammonia emissions. Free training and advice will be available to help support farmers to, for example, make choices about investment in infrastructure and equipment to reduce emissions.