NFU responds to Farming Rules for Water changes

03 August 2021

Responding to the Environment Agency's Regulatory Position Statement on changes to the Farming Rules for Water, NFU Deputy President Stuart Roberts said: “Today’s announcement is a missed opportunity to provide much needed clarity for farmers who have significant concerns on how ‘rule 1’ of the farming rules for water regulations is being interpreted.

“I am deeply disappointed with the content of the statement by the Environment Agency, which sets an idealistic and impractical barrier in many farming situations. We’ve made multiple approaches over the past two years urging Defra and the Environment Agency to set achievable objectives to make best use of organic manures, slurries and biowastes – this seems to have been ignored - and I am still to hear from Defra Ministers despite having written twice in recent months.

“To find ourselves in this situation so close to autumn shows a complete lack of appreciation of the bigger picture; these materials improve soil health and replace man-made fertilisers while use at this time of year reduces ammonia emissions compared to applications in the spring. This legislation must be applied in a way that recognises the wider benefits of using organic manures sustainably.

“Farmers have made great strides over recent decades in reducing key agricultural emissions.  We’ve seen a major reduction in the amount of manures and fertiliser applied to farmland and held in the soil, which means far less nutrients reaching our rivers than in the past. Much of this progress has been made by farmers taking voluntary action through industry-led initiatives to drive improvements that benefit the water environment, as well as on farm productivity. We can do more with investment through incentives such as the Slurry Investment Scheme and the Environmental Land Management scheme, working alongside initiatives such as Catchment Sensitive Farming.

“The NFU will continue discussions with the Environment Agency, government and industry stakeholders - but a longer-term and more sustainable solution is urgently needed that benefits both farmers and the environment.”

Notes to editor:

  1. Rule 1 of the Farming Rules for Water states that a land manager must plan each application of organic manure or manufactured fertiliser so that it does not ‘exceed the needs of the soil and crop on that land’ or ‘give rise to a significant risk of agricultural diffuse pollution’.
  2. More information on the Environment Agency’s Regulatory Position Statement here.

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