Farming rules for water announced

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Defra have announced that a new set of “farming rules for water” will be introduced in April 2018, to minimise water pollution from agricultural activities. The announcement states that the rules are aimed at promoting good practice and will benefit farmers.

They will be enforced by the Environment Agency through a combination of advice and inspection. The 8 rules consist of 5 relating to application of fertiliser and manures and 3 about management of soil.

The majority of the rules are already encapsulated within existing regulations and cross compliance requirements, but there is a new requirement to test soils every 5 years as part of rule 1 on planning the use of manures and fertilisers. This requirement needs further clarification as to what exactly needs to be tested.

These new rules are part of the process of moving towards “green Brexit” and the development of the 25 year environment plan. They will also form part of the programme of measures to meet our existing obligations under the EU Water Framework Directive (which remain in force until we leave the EU).

Legislation will be required to implement the policy on farming rules for water which will provide further details, definitions and guidance. The policy paper indicates that the rules will be introduced through an advice led approach, but this will be backed up by enforcement by the Environment Agency. It remains to be seen how these new rules will be integrated with the existing advice led approach through Catchment Sensitive Farming and other initiatives and how the rules will be enforced in the UK post Brexit.

The policy paper can be downloaded at

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/farming-rules-for-water-from-april-2018

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