It always shocks people when they see how much paperwork is involved in farming. There’s that age-old belief that it’s an industry stuck in the past, run solely on hard graft and dirty hands. But there’s an administrative side, and without a pen and paper, or a laptop or tablet nowadays, you won’t be farming for long.
Whatever you’re doing, there’s probably something to fill in, tick off or record somewhere along the way.
Just one of those corners covered in checklists and rules are NVZs (Nitrate Vulnerable Zones).
Around 55% of the land in England is designated as an NVZ. They’re areas chose by the government as being at risk of agricultural nitrate pollution and they help protect the rivers and streams. Unfortunately, they only cover farming, so they don’t stop sewage being discharged into the rivers when the sewage plants and water treatment works overflow, which seems a little counterproductive, doesn’t it?
The rules we have to follow limit how much nitrogen can be applied to the land each year, including nitrogen from artificial fertiliser and the nitrogen that’s in livestock manure. And they control when, where and in what conditions both types can be applied- for example, buffer strips have to be left next to all ditches and watercourses, where no applications of anything can be spread.
Every application has to be carefully planned out and recorded, ready to show to any inspectors who turn up.
If you’re found not following any of the rules, you risk being prosecuted and fined by the environment agency.
There’s always more we can all try to do to further protect the environment and the beautiful landscape we get to live in, but it does get a little bit frustrating to hear people accusing farming of causing all pollution when we’re so heavily regulated (and rightfully so).