NFU Scotland said it had serious concerns about the impact the NVZ designation could have on farmers within the Piltanton Burn area in the Stranraer Lowlands.
It said farmers in the area had already made a substantial ‘voluntary effort’ to address diffuse pollution.
In a letter to the Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment (RACCE) Committee at Holyrood, NFUS stated the NVZ designation – ‘one of the most bureaucratic and prescriptive types of regulation’ - would add ‘significant paperwork and costs to farmers and land managers’.
It said in keeping with the recommendations of the Scottish Government-commissioned Pack Report into red tape and bureaucracy, the desired outcome of reducing nitrate levels could be achieved through a voluntary rather than a mandatory approach.
In the latest review of NVZ designations, which received significant input from the union, improving water quality saw more than 2000 Scottish farms lifted out of meeting NVZ requirements.
Regional chairman Gary Mitchell, who farms at West Galdenoch near Stranraer, said: “Farmers and land managers in the Piltanton Burn area have taken their responsibilities to reduce nitrates and improve water very seriously but their reward from Scottish Government is red tape, restrictions on their business and cost.
“We have voluntarily instigated a programme of capital investment and management changes which has already delivered a significant downward trend in nitrate levels in the Piltanton groundwater body.”
The Piltanton Burn Catchment Initiative has assisted funding applications to the Rural Development Programme which have led to the construction of 43 new slurry stores – where 60 per cent of the funding has come from farmers.
“Local farmers have also fenced off 30 miles of watercourse as well as providing extra housing for wintering nearly 2,000 cattle, to take them off the land during the wettest time of year,” added Mr Mitchell.
“As a heavily stocked, early grass-growing livestock and dairy area, this investment and change in practice has led to significant improvements in groundwater nitrate levels, and that justifies a programme of self-regulation and monitoring, rather than Scottish Government bluntly accepting that all producers in these areas must comply with complex and costly NVZ requirements.”