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Farmers Playing Their Part In Improving Water Quality

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Farmers are already taking action on a number of fronts to minimise their impact on water quality and will continue to work to make improvements, the NFU said today.

Defra, the Environment Agency and the Welsh Assembly Government have published River Basin Management Plans for ten river basin districts in England and Wales which set out how good water status will be achieved for each lake, stretch of a river, estuary or coastline. The plans aim to raise standards and include new ways of working and the use of economic tests to ensure objectives are worthwhile.

NFU Deputy President Meurig Raymond said: Agriculture is already taking action to minimise its impact on water quality through a range of industry initiatives such as the Voluntary Initiative for pesticide use, the Tried and Tested programme for nutrient planning, and the Campaign for the Farmed Environment.

The announcement of a 50 per cent increase in funding from Defra to 7.5 million for capital grants available as part of the Catchment Sensitive Farming Delivery Initiative will help to deliver targeted benefits while the extra 1 million for Environment Agency investigations will help research into the source and impact of pollution.

It is increasingly apparent in rural areas that the contribution of agriculture to diffuse pollution is rather less than had been previously assumed and we strongly support further investigations to gather evidence of the actual sources of pollution. The more accurately measures are targeted, the more cost-effective the measures will be.

Mr Raymond said the NFU would continue to work with the Environment Agency and other stakeholders to better understand what farmers can do to improve water quality in specific areas while maintaining productivity to impact less while producing more.

We should not underestimate the challenge which the plans pose, with their very ambitious targets.  These will take time to deliver and, in some cases, will be very costly.  Some of the most costly measures for farmers include the construction of extra slurry storage for which there is no financial support in England unlike other countries in the UK and the EU.  This illustrates the need to pay particular attention to the worth-whileness of the objectives and the cost-effectiveness of the measures.

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