The president of the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) David Brown has said that his organisation has been given reassurances “time and time again” that the results from the new Soil Nutrient Health Scheme won’t be used as a “big stick to beat farmers”.

Taking part in a panel discussion at the Rural Support event at Loughry Campus, Brown maintained that the soil analysis results will only be used by CAFRE in an advisory capacity.

One of the main aims of the soil scheme is to encourage farmers to make better use of slurry and manures, and target applications at fields that need it most. Where nutrients are applied in excess, there is increased risk of run-off to water.

“I can’t defend water quality in NI as being where it needs to be,” said Brown.

He also described as “absolutely criminal” that some big companies are allowed to offset their carbon emissions by buying farmland to grow trees, and warned Red Tractor farm assurance against adding too many environmental measures to its farm standards. He said there is already evidence that farmers in England are walking away from the scheme.

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