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Productivity must be at the heart of water strategy

Agricultural productivity must remain at the heart of strategies to improve water security and quality, the NFU has told delegates at a major international water conference in Stockholm.

World Water Week, which will run from 26-31 August, is hosted and organised by the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) and this year the theme of the conference is “Water and Food Security”.

Maeve Whyte, director of the NFU’s office in Brussels, said food security and water security were two of the greatest challenges facing the world today, adding that farmers “were on the front line”.

“Farmers in England manage about 70 per cent of the land area and water management is integral to many farming activities as well as a critical asset for many farming businesses. Without water many farmers would simply not be able to meet the quality and continuity of food demanded by a rapidly growing population,” said Ms Whyte.

“Following two consecutive years of dry winters and the expected growing influence of climate change, water security is of increasing importance in agriculture.

“Fortunately, the rain in spring 2012 provided welcome relief for many farmers, but there is a growing recognition that we need to move to a position of longer term water resource management and resilience – food security demands water security.

“Investment in new infrastructure is critical and investment incentives, such as appropriate tax incentives to encourage the building of reservoirs to increase security, are an important part of the mix.

Ms Whyte also said that the need for research and innovation was greater than ever which must be reflected in scientific investment and that voluntary initiatives were reaping a reward: “We need to pursue new innovative farming techniques and invest in the development of drought resistant crops.

“British farmers are leading the way in Europe on catchment sensitive farming initiatives, including measures to help protect water and to improve water quality in the industry’s Campaign for the Farmed Environment.

“Over the next 6 months the EU will be working on a new water strategy. My message to policy makers is that British farmers have demonstrated that local, targeted and voluntary schemes are superior to one-size-fits-all regulation.”


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