McKee Welcomes Ministerial Commitment To Him On Slurry Spreading

Ulster Unionist Party Agriculture Spokesperson Harold McKee has welcomed the confirmation that farmers will be able to spread slurry after the end of the season without fear of being penalised.

The Agriculture Minister made the announcement in direct response to a challenge by Mr McKee in the Assembly on Monday.

South Down UUP MLA Harold McKee.
South Down UUP MLA Harold McKee.

Mr McKee said: “Farmers across large parts of Northern Ireland have been enduring incessant rain and as a direct consequence, not only did many miss lifting all of their silage, but they were helplessly watching the slurry spreading season come to a close with tanks near full but ground too wet to take machinery out onto.

“After being contacted farmers I managed to secure a direct question to the Agriculture Minister in the Assembly Chamber on Monday past. I asked her firstly about the implications of the poor weather, on which she replied difficult conditions for silage making, slurry spreading and the harvesting of arable crops.

“The Minister also stated that in some localised areas, cattle have been housed earlier than usual, which means that feed and forage are already being used, at an additional cost to the farmer, and the harvesting of spring cereal crops has not yet been completed.

“I then directly challenged the Minister to extend the slurry-spreading period to allow farmers to have their tanks emptied in an environmentally safe way. It was during her response to this challenge that she said in exceptional circumstances beyond the control of and not foreseeable by an individual farmer, a defence may be made for non-compliance with some of the requirements of the NAP regulations, including spreading organic manures during the closed period.

“I welcome this eventual clarity from the Minister and it will come as much needed comfort for farmers who were genuinely fearful as to what they would do if they had to have their slurry spread by 15 October.

“I would urge farmers who will be spreading outside of the usual spreading period to be incredibly careful, however, as some could face accusations or implications that they were wrong to do so. Before any spreading takes place after the 15th I would urge farmers to make contact with DAERA or the NIEA just to keep themselves safe from inaccurate allegations of any wrongdoing.”