How to use the Farming Rules for Water RPS

Cows walking towards a river

In September, the Environment Agency (EA) issued a Regulatory Position Statement (RPS) covering regulation 4, also knows as Farming Rules for Water applies to any custodian of agricultural land.

To notify the EA, farmers must send an email to [email protected] with ‘RPS 252’ in the subject line and the following in the body:

  • Name of the person and company using the RPS, including their email address and phone number
  • Address where you will use the material relating to the RPS
  • Type of material that will be spread.

Farmers wishing to rely on the RPS should take independent advice to ensure that they understand any potential implications of doing so (particularly as there is no guarantee that the RPS will be available in future years), and ensure that they have complied with the requirements attached to the RPS.

Rule 1 of Farming Rules for Water

The EA had previously indicated autumn applications of manure are likely to breach Rule 1 of the Farming Rules for Water unless the AHDB Nutrient Management Guide (RB209) says the receiving crop has an immediate nitrogen requirement, such as is the case with oilseed rape.

This was an interpretation of Rule 1 of the Farming Rules for Water, saying manure and fertiliser applications to agricultural land must be planned so as to not ‘exceed the needs of the soil and crop on that land’ or ‘give rise to a significant risk of agricultural diffuse pollution’.

Farmers will need to consider their position carefully and may wish to take independent legal and/or professional advice regarding their circumstances to ascertain whether they are compliant with Farming Rules for Water.

New FACTS guidance

The 3 July 2021 also sees the publication of fresh guidance from FACTS, which the NFU and other industry bodies have helped shape, on what farmers can do to comply with Rule 1 of the Farming Rules for Water.

The guidance emphasises the role of robust and up-to-date nutrient management planning and signposts to relevant tools for doing so. It also recognises the differing level of risk associated with different manure applications and indicates where special care may be needed.

AHDB Farming Rules for Water impact assessment

Separately, in February 2021, the AHDB commissioned ADAS to conduct an evidence-based impact assessment of Rule 1, particularly ‘the restriction on the use of organic materials in the autumn and winter’. The assessment considered the practical and financial impact on farmers, such as having to reduce livestock numbers, build more storage and breach contracts with suppliers. It also considered impacts on the wider environment, as well as addressing evidence gaps and potential solutions.

The NFU sat on the steering group for this work and the final report has now been published.

General RPS enquiries

For general enquiries on the RPS: email the Environment Agency at [email protected]. Alternatively, contact your local office, or call the national helpline on 03708 506 506.

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