88. The Nitrates Directive is undoubtedly flawed.
Unlike the Water Framework Directive, which, as its names suggests,
provides a framework to achieve a common goal, but leaves much
of the detail of implementation to member states, the Nitrates
Directive imposes prescriptive rules in an attempt to achieve
its aim of reducing water pollution by nitrates from agricultural
sources. Moreover, the scientific justification for the figures
mentioned in the Nitrates Directivespecifically the 50
mg/l limit for nitrates in surface and ground waters and the 170
kg N/ha whole-farm limit for livestock manuresis at best
unclear. The European Commission should carry out post-legislative
scrutiny of the Directive to learn lessons about the way in which
it was designed in the first place, the effectiveness of its results,
and the difficulties member states have had in implementing it.
89. However, for the time being at least, Defra
must find a way of satisfying the Commission that it is complying
with the Directive. Defra's plan to implement the 170 kg N/ha
whole-farm limit is a sensible first step, given that this is
one area where England is incontrovertibly in breach of the Directive.
Some of the proposals, such as the closed periods for organic
manure and the storage provisions, need refinement, and the cover
crops requirement should be dropped altogether. Defra must convince
the Commission that it is implementing the Directive while convincing
farmers that the changes to the Action Programme are fair and
proportionate. It is a difficult task but, as other member states
have proved, not an impossible one.