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Keep pollution rules for farmland, says RSPB


Conservationists have criticised proposals by an influential farming panel which could see agricultural land exempt from key pollution rules.

The Macdonald Task Force was set up to reform farming regulation and reports its findings today (May 17). The report confirms the important role of many areas of environmental legislation, however concerns have been raised over its proposals for the future of European legislation on industrial pollution.

Task Force is calling for farmland to be exempt from the Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC) directive which regulates large industrial operations.

Gareth Morgan, RSPB Head of Countryside Conservation, said: Large agribusiness units in our countryside can have a significant impact on the soil and water quality of the surrounding area. Ammonia from pig farms, for instance, can impact nearby habitats with serious implications for local wildlife. It is right that these large scale operations are included in the European legislation.

The Task Force panel had little direct input from environmental groups and had a clear steer towards promoting deregulation. Of course there is always room for regulatory reform but to throw out vital legislation like this in order to please the industry would be unwise and unsustainable.

Elsewhere the report lays out some useful areas for discussion and the panel has taken on board some of the RSPBs concerns. The report proposes continued protection for several important areas of legislation, and stresses the importance of the basic environmental rules that all farmers must comply with in order to receive their subsidy payments.

It also reflects the RSPBs concerns about the impact of regulatory burdens on the extensive livestock sector which is so important in maintaining wildlife habitats.

Mr Morgan added: As a large landowner with arable and livestock operations we understand that regulation can be a burden when running a business. But we also know how vital this regulation is when it comes to protecting natural habitats in our farmed countryside for threatened birds, insects and plants. This needs to underpin all the good work being done by farmers within agri-environment schemes.

Better regulation does not have to mean deregulation, and we hope this is something Government ministers will take on board when considering the recommendations of this report.

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