It shall advise the operators of the holdings so that they comply adequately with the obligations established in the Law or in the applicable action programme and, where appropriate, inform the Regional Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.
The Community has launched the figure of the agri-environmental operator, with the publication today in the Official Gazette of the Region of Murcia (BORM) of the order that regulates them. The agri-environmental operators will be responsible for advising the owners of farms in the Mar Menor area to ensure the application of the protection measures provided for in the Law or in the applicable action programmes.
The Minister for Water, Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and the Environment, Antonio Luengo, explained, during his visit to a greenhouse for growing peppers in Dolores de Pacheco, that “these are necessary collaborators of the farmers, trained in the content of the Law for the Protection and Recovery of the Mar Menor, to help them apply the measures on the ground and inform them of any breaches so that they can be corrected”.
Luengo assured that “this is one more step taken by the regional government to guarantee the protection and recovery of the ecosystem” and highlighted “the efforts of the farmers who are applying the measures that allow the sustainable exercise of their activity, using the most advanced technologies such as probes to control irrigation or fertilisation, as well as the installation of plant barriers”.
The farms obliged to have an agri-environmental operator, either on staff or by an external professional, are those with more than 0.5 hectares in irrigated land and 5 hectares in dry land, with those smaller than this being exempt. The order establishes a period of six months for the owners of agricultural holdings to have an agri-environmental operator.
Functions to be carried out
One of its functions is to advise on the proper fulfilment of measures relating to the management of manure and slurry and its application to the soil with fertiliser value. In addition, he/she will prepare the documentation or information that the owner of the farm must provide or present to the competent Regional Ministry for the control of nitrate pollution, by virtue of his/her employment, commercial or professional relationship.
It must be verified that the agricultural holdings under irrigation systems have the right to use water; that the conservation plant structures on agricultural holdings under irrigation systems have been implemented in due time and form; that the vegetation strips on agricultural holdings under rainfed systems have been implemented; that at least 5 per cent of the area of the farm is covered by nutrient retention systems; that the limitation of crop cycles is complied with; or that urea and urea fertilisers are not applied; or, in horticultural crops, ammonium nitrate is not applied in the last third of the crop cycle.
Also that greenhouses with impermeable plastic cover have rainwater collection structures; that no sewage sludge is applied; that the movement of slurry and other manures with fertiliser value have been validated in the electronic register of livestock manure movements; that crop residues are handled correctly; that the plastic waste management plan is drawn up annually; and that plastic waste is handed over to the authorised manager.
Qualification to become an agri-environmental operator
The qualifications required to work as an agro-environmental operator include bachelor’s degrees, higher engineering degrees, technical engineering degrees, bachelor’s or master’s degrees and higher vocational training degrees that include in their curricula a minimum of 48 credits in subjects such as horticultural production technology, phytotechnics, irrigation and drainage technology, hydrology, agricultural machinery, crop protection and animal production technologies.
In order to determine the subjects, the Regional Ministry has had the collaboration of the Official College of Agricultural Engineers of the Region of Murcia and the Official College of Agricultural Technical Engineers and Graduates in Agricultural Engineering of the Region of Murcia. The training may be provided, in addition to the Regional Ministry, by universities and professional associations, and the assessment tests will be held at the Integrated Centre for Agricultural Training and Experiences in Torre Pacheco. The first course is scheduled to run from 9 to 22 May.