New ammonia regulations look set to be enforced from as early as 2020 and now dairy and beef farmers are being encouraged to think ahead and consider how the new legislation could impact their businesses.

That’s message from Tom Gill, Promar’s head of environment, who said the proposed regulations are a ‘driver for change’. He recommended that a proactive approach is taken to meet future regulatory changes.

“The recent government announcement to clamp down on ammonia emissions from agriculture, by introducing stricter controls on fertiliser use, slurry and manure management, and livestock housing, may have left some farmers feeling uncertain about the future sustainability of their businesses,” he said.

“However, given that the proposed regulations are mostly focused on the enforcement of best practice, which many farmers are already implementing to improve efficiency on-farm, they’re therefore in a good position to reap the potential benefits on offer.”

Given that manure and slurry applications account for 25% of agricultural ammonia emissions, all slurry and digestate will need to be applied using low-emission spreading equipment by 2027.

“The good news is that many farmers are ahead of the game and are already spreading slurry in such a way to maximise the additional benefits such as increased nitrogen (N) value,” said Mr Gill.

“For example, using a trailing hose can increase the N value by approximately three units per 1000 gallons. This helps save money on feed and bedding as it allows for a quicker return to grazing.”

However, the proposed regulations are likely to mean that significant investment in infrastructure is required. “The target date for slurry and digestate stores to be covered is 2027 and given that few farms currently cover stores, farmers are going to have to make financial investments in order to comply,” he pointed out.

“For this reason, I’d recommend that they take time to understand the new legislation, particularly when developing both short and long-term business plans because this will help ensure farms are one step ahead.”

Proposed government regulations to reduce ammonia emissions from agriculture:

2019: Introduction of nitrogen (or fertiliser) limits

2025: Extension of environmental permitting to large dairy farms

2020-on: Rules on specific emissions-reducing practices:

Requirement to spread urea-based fertilisers in conjunction with urease inhibitors, unless applied by injection on appropriate land by 2020

Mandatory design standards for new livestock housing by 2022

Requirement for all solid manure and digestate spread to bare land to be incorporated rapidly (within 12 hours) by 2022

Requirement to spread slurries and digestate using low-emission spreading equipment by 2027

Requirement for all slurry and digestate stores to be covered by 2027