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Government releases the Clean Air Strategy with implications for farmers.

15th Jan 2019

Yesterday, the Government released its Clean Air Strategy 2019 following the consultation period that took place during the latter half of 2018. The document which covers all sectors of UK industry sets out the key sources, challenges, solutions and regulation opportunities to help improve air quality. The importance of air quality for all is clear, indeed, "clean air is essential for life, health, the environment and the economy" and as such, "the Government must act to tackle air pollution which shortens lives" (forward to strategy document).

As well as chapters looking at how to gather, measure and model emissions, and chapters for targeted action on transport, within the home environment, industry, and for farming. 

The strategy covers five danaging air pollutants, these are:

  • fine particulate matter 
  • Ammonia
  • Nitrogen oxides
  • Sulphur dioxides
  • and non - methane volatile organic compounds

There are national emissions targets that set reduction goals for 2010, 2020 and 2030. This new strategy sets out existing policies and new actions that will help to meet targets. The majority of the practices that are being focussed on within agriculture are to do with ammonia mitigation and reduction. This is because agriculture is the dominant source of ammonia emissions (comprising 88% of ammonia emission in 2016). The diagram below depicts some of the sources and issues, (Source: Clean Air Strategy, 2019). 

Chapter 7 of the strategy deals with agriculture. 

Agriculture focussed strategy

The graphs below from the strategy depict the breakdown of emissions by livestock and fetiliser category and by management.


Key measures that have been identified that will be adopted over the next few years include:

  • covering slurry and digestate stores or using slurry bags
  • using low emissions techniques for spreading slurry and digestate on land (for example by injection, trailing show or trailing hose)
  • Incorporated manures into bare soils within 12 hours of spreading
  • Washing down animal collection points soon after use
  • Ensuring that levels of protein in livestock diets are well matched to nutritional needs
  • Switching from urea based fertiliser to annomium nitrate which has lower emissions, injecting or incorporating urea into the soil or applying it alongside a urease inhibitor.

Cutting ammonia emissions from farming

This is focussed on the introduction of new regulations and ensuring financial support to help farmers deliver improvements. 

Regulations to reduce emissions

1. Introduce rules on specific emissions - reducing practices which include

  • a requirement to take action to reduce emissions from urea based fertilisers
  • a requirement for all solid manure and digestate spread to bare land (other than no-till) to be incorporated rapidly (within12 hours)
  • A requirement to spread slurries and digestates using low - emission spreading equipment by 2025
  • A requirement for slurry and digestate stores to be covered by 2027
  • Mandatory design standards for new intensive poultry, pig and beef livestock housing and for dairy housing

2. Regulation to minimise pollution from organic and inorganic fertiliser use. 

Plans are afood to put into place a robust framework to limit inputs of N rich fertilisers (including manure and slurry) to economically efficient levels backed up by clear rules, advice and where appropriate financial support.

This will be achieved through an integrated approach and an expert group (including farmers) will be tasked with looking at this and working out how to regulate it.

3. Extension of environmental permitting to dairy and intensive been systems by 2025.

IPPC regulations are currently in place for pig and poultry housing systems and design, and work will commence to introduce appropriate emissions limits and BATs (best available technique) documentation.

Other actions

There will be a requirement (and support available) for farmers to make investment in the farm infrastructure and equipment that will reduce emissions. There is also a proposal that the future environmental land management system should fund targeted action to protect habitats impacted by ammonia. There is an undertaking for government to continue to work with industry to ensure that the inventory reflects existing farming practices and the latest evidence on emissions reductions.