The NFU is urging the Environment Agency (EA) to delay the introduction of changes to its charging regimes which could see significant increased costs for farming businesses.

A consultation document published by the EA last November proposes a number of several fold increases in application, variation, surrender and annual compliance permit fees, which the NFU says are disproportionately high.

Permit systems for poultry farming, landspreading of waste and sheep dip, on-farm anaerobic digestion and flood management would all be affected.

Mark Pope, NFU environment forum chairman, said: “These proposed huge increases within the charging regimes could have a detrimental effect on many farm businesses.

“Very little information has been provided on the basis for these charge changes so the onus is solely on the EA to demonstrate greater transparency and show that these costs are fair, proportionate and competitive.

“We’re extremely concerned that instead of investing in improving efficiency, productivity and new technology, we could see a lot of our costs tied up with inflated administrative costs.  We want farming to continue to improve its environmental performance, but these cost increases could be seen as a disincentive to improve management practices or limit the availability of management options in the future. The proposals could also put up barriers to new permit applicants.

“That’s why we want to see the Environment Agency delay the implementation until at least April 2019 to give us time to have further discussions with the EA to find ways of keeping our costs down.

“Additionally, a permit nearly always has additional and wider socio-economic and environmental benefits, such as flood mitigation, improvement in air and water quality and waste recovery, which provides wider public goods. This must be recognised when the EA calculates the costs of permit administration.”