NFU submits views for farming rules for water review

02 February 2021

The NFU has submitted a written response to a Defra review of the Farming Rules for Water (FRW) regulations. The comments in the response will be discussed in detail at a stakeholder event later this month.

The rules have caused issues for some members, particularly around the requirement to plan nutrient applications so as not to exceed soil and crop need.

Defra is now conducting a review of the regulations and has asked stakeholders to answer a range of questions to gather views.

The key points in our response include:

  • Long-term datasets suggest nutrient pollution from farming activities has fallen significantly over recent decades and this is largely due to the wider adoption of good practice, increased uptake of advice, and better nutrient use efficiency.
  • Awareness of the FRW among farmers is low but, as Defra stated when the rules were introduced, they are merely ‘standardising good farm practices that many are already performing’.
  • We welcome the apparent new approach to regulation taken by the FRW, whereby the rules should be a win-win for farmers and the environment and help businesses save money. However, we are concerned that the current interpretation of the FRW by the Environment Agency (EA), specifically in regard to rule one, will lead to these important aims being missed.
  • To accompany the FRW, we believe that better and clearer guidance is needed for farmers and advisers/agronomists to promote good nutrient management planning – to help maximise the use of organic materials, which are valuable sources of nutrients, but also to minimise the risk of nutrient losses.
  • There is a clear role for Catchment Sensitive Farming (CSF) and industry-led initiatives, such as Championing the Farmed Environment and Tried & Tested, to help deliver improved messaging and further Government support for these would be welcome

Make sure you log in to read our written response (below).

NFU staff and members are now preparing to reinforce these points at a stakeholder event in February. We hope to see the issues addressed when Defra publishes its review report in early April.

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