New rules for farmers to better protect water quality
The government is introducing new rules for all farmers in England to better protect water quality. The new rules, which come in to effect from April 2, 2018, will not only benefit farming businesses but reduce the cost of treatment and protect biodiversity as well.
The Environment Agency (EA) said the new rules will help protect water quality by standardising good farm practices that many are already performing and offer a new approach to regulation. In essence, farmers will be required to:
- Keep soil on the land
- Match nutrients to crop, and soil needs
- Keep livestock fertilisers and manures out of the water
Environment minister Thérèse Coffey said: “These new rules are a win-win for farmers and the environment. They will help improve water quality, set a level playing field for all farmers, help businesses save money from better resource efficiency and improve their resilience.”
The farming rules for water were drawn up with farming and environment stakeholders to recognise and build on the good progress that a great many farmers have made in trying to tackle pollution.
There are eight rules, five about managing fertilisers and manures and three on managing soils. The fertiliser rules require farmers to test their soils, then plan and apply their fertiliser or manure to improve soil nutrient levels and meet crop needs. They include minimum storage and spreading distances from water bodies. They also require the farmer to assess weather and soil conditions to reduce the risk of runoff and soil erosion.
The remaining rules require farmers to manage livestock by protecting land within 5m of water and reducing livestock poaching.
In addition to these rules, farmers are encouraged to incorporate organic fertilisers into the soil within 12 hours of spreading to significantly reduce ammonia pollution.
Farming rules for water are part of a whole package of measures to help farmers and land managers look after the environment. The government is also investing £400M through Countryside Stewardship which supports farmers in creating or restoring precious habitats and a £12M farm ammonia reduction grant has incentivised farmers to tackle agricultural emissions.
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