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Defra announces new measures to help farmers tackle pollution

by 5m Editor
21 December 2005, at 12:00am

UK - Dedicated advisers will soon be on hand to help farmers tackle the causes of harmful water pollution, Environment Minister Elliot Morley announced yesterday.

Defra announces new measures to help farmers tackle pollution - UK - Dedicated advisers will soon be on hand to help farmers tackle the causes of harmful water pollution, Environment Minister Elliot Morley announced yesterday.

Forty catchments across England, identified as priority areas for action, will be targeted under a range of measures aimed at improving farm practices and reducing water pollution from agriculture. Newly appointed advisers will work on a one to one basis with farmers, as well as leading a series of initiatives including workshops and farm demonstrations to encourage best practice.

Pollution caused by agriculture can have serious effects on local rivers, lakes, estuaries and coastal waters. An overloading of nutrients lost from fields can boost the growth of algae, which in turn squeezes out plants like stoneworts and water buttercups. Oxygen levels can also become depleted, suffocating fish.

River plants like the brook water crowfoot are at risk from soil-loss from fields which leads to the siltation of rivers – also hampering the breeding of trout and salmon as well as a range of insects.

Treating such pollution is often expensive; it is estimated that the cost of removing harmful pesticides and nitrates from drinking water is £7 a year for every water customer. Diffuse pollution from agriculture can reduce the quality of bathing water, with detrimental effects for the tourist industry. Taking action to address diffuse pollution will help us with the measures being developed under the Water Framework Directive to improve water quality.

Elliot Morley said:

“One of the greatest challenges we face in boosting the quality of our water environment is in tackling pollution from agriculture. This new initiative will help address this threat by providing farmers with the understanding and know-how needed to improve farming practices.

“Working to reduce water pollution will have wide benefits – protecting plants and animals, improving the quality of water at our beaches, and also benefiting tourism.

“We are playing our part by paying for a network of expert advisers to provide free advice by establishing a partnership between Defra, the EA, and Natural England, to help farmers to act. Now I am looking for a positive reaction from the farming industry”.

The £25 million two year catchment sensitive farming delivery initiative has a particular focus on local engagement, and further partnership working, with farmers, farm advisers, conservation bodies, water companies and a wide range of other interests.

Barbara Young, Chief Executive of the Environment Agency added:

“We are fully supportive of this initiative. By working with farmers to agree appropriate targets and practical ways of meeting the requirements of the Water Framework Directive, we can use the skills and resources available to us for the good of the environment and the farming economy.

“Acting early and in partnership at a local level will secure strong working relationships that are founded on good science, monitoring and support for measures to reduce diffuse pollution and the achievement of Catchment Sensitive Farming at the most efficient cost to the industry.”

The Chief Executives of the Rural Development Service, John Adams, and of English Nature, Andy Brown, also warmly welcomed this initiative. They said:

“We will be combining the technical expertise and experience in engaging with farmers, of both our organisations in the Natural England Partnership with that of the Environment Agency, to make sure this initiative works. Our officials are working with colleagues in the EA and Defra, to develop detailed plans that will enable us to take this forward successfully and hit the ground running from April. We are now proceeding with the recruitment of a network of Catchment Sensitive Farming Officers to spearhead this initiative.”

Practices farmers can adopt to reduce the risk of polluting water might include limiting the use of fertilisers, manures and pesticides, fencing off watercourses as well as reducing stocking densities.

Source: Defra - 20th December 2005

5m Editor