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Environment Agency - Big freeze prompts new guidance for farmers on milk and slurry disposal

Some of the regulations on spreading milk and slurry will be relaxed temporarily to help farmers during the big freeze, the Environment Agency announced yesterday.

Milk and slurry are not normally allowed to be spread on frozen ground due to the high risk of water pollution, but the Environment Agency will be taking a more flexible approach to help farmers who have run out of storage options. Milk can cause more harm than sewage if it flows into rivers and kills fish and other aquatic wildlife.

Snow and icy conditions have prevented tankers in some parts of the country completing their usual milk collections, causing some farmers to have to stockpile milk on farms.  Slurry storage is also under pressure in some places.

The Environment Agency stressed that it was issuing the guidance to reduce the risk of pollution from overflowing storage tanks and would apply only until milk collections returned to normal.

To help farmers get through the exceptional weather conditions, the Environment Agency will allow farmers whose slurry storage is at or near to capacity to spread slurry and waste milk on snow-covered or frozen soil.

This would normally be in breach of pollution and waste regulations, but the Environment Agency announced that it will not take enforcement action when:

  • action has to be taken to prevent storage overflowing
  • there is no alternative temporary storage available - such as at a neighbour's farm – and there are no other environmentally acceptable options for disposal
  • the activity is unlikely to result in pollution

The Environment Agency has issued detailed guidance on its website and will be circulating it to farmers and agricultural organisations.

The guidance also provides advice to reduce the amount of slurry produced daily, such as keeping animals on straw and washing down dairy parlours with low volume hoses.

Farmers who are facing storage difficulties - or want advice on dealing with slurry and surplus milk supplies - are urged to contact their local Environment Agency office for guidance or call the Environment Agency’s helpline on 08708 506506.

Environment Agency Director of Operations, David Jordan said: "This is a really tough time for farmers and comes on top of the recent floods in Cumbria.

“We want to do what we can to help farmers, while still protecting the environment against pollution. That is why we will relax the rules on spreading milk and slurry if they have run out of storage options.

"Most farmers should have enough storage space to cope through the winter, but any farmer who is facing slurry or surplus milk storage problems should call us."

To find out more about the new guidance, contact your local Environment Agency office, call the Environment Agency’s helpline on 08708 506506 or go to the Environment Agency’s website at: