Why producers will have to clean up their act

by 5m Editor
7 July 2004, at 12:00am

UK - There are 1.3 billion cubic kilometres of water on earth and we are not going to get any more: it is a closed system. Only three percent is fresh - mostly in the form of ice sheets - and only a fraction of one percent is in rivers, lakes and reservoirs.

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NPA is active on members' behalf in Brussels & Whitehall, and with processors, supermarkets & caterers – fighting for the growth and pros-perity of the UK pig industry.

It is against this background that all farmers, including pig producers, are being asked to work with government to reduce pollution. Every producer will feel the impact of this new drive to clean up our waterways.

Farming is not the only cause but it is said to be responsible for around 70 percent of nitrogen, 50 percent of phosphorous and most of the silt pollution in British waters. This is not surprising as agriculture covers 76 percent of England and Wales, and fertilisers are an essential part of the farming business.

At best, Defra's paper on catchment sensitive farming heralds the start of close cooperation between farmers and government to reduce pollution; at worst it could shut down some farms.

Catchment sensitive farming is about tackling 'diffuse' pollution - the numerous small sources of pollution that are contributing to a build up of nutrients and silt in rivers. Defra proposes several ways to reduce it:

  • Reduce the use of fertilisers and pesticides.
  • Change the pattern and timing of use.
  • Maximise their retention in the field and on the crop.
  • Slow or reduce their transportation to water.
  • Manage soils to reduce capping and to increase organic content.
  • Change land use to less intensive, or lower risk, uses.

It proposes four options for reducing diffuse pollution. These could be mixed and matched if necessary.

Late regulation. Relies on existing measures, and new rules in the pipeline. But the new rules (Water Framework Directive) don't kick in for another eight years so any advantages from early action would be lost.

Early regulation. Would employ a gradual approach, setting national standards, sector by sector and area by area. But a wholly regulatory approach would likely not be welcomed by farmers.

Supportive approach. A package of measures consisting of voluntary initiatives, information and perhaps financial support.

Economic instruments. Agri-environment schemes, capital grants, capital allowances. But these could not cover all aspects of catchment sensitive farming, therefore other measures would be required, for instance: nutrient surplus levies.

See the consultation document (consultation runs until September 9). - PDF

Learn more about the areas most likely to be affected by new measures (this is a biggish PDF file.)

Source: National Pig Association - By Digby Scott - 7th July 2004

5m Editor