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National Drought Group and NAO audit report on the Future Farming Programme

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National Drought Group

A river running through trees with sunshine on the surface of the water

There has been widespread balanced coverage of yesterday’s (4 June) National Drought Group (NDG) meeting, chaired by Sir James Bevan, Chief Executive of the Environment Agency to assess the latest water resource situation and actions being taken to reduce the risk of drought this summer. The National Drought Group (NDG) brings together government departments, water companies, environmental groups and others to prepare for and mitigate the impacts of dry weather by coordinating action to maintain water supplies and protect the environment.

The Sun, ITV Meridien, Yorkshire Post (p.6), Express and Star, Times and Star, Northern Echo, Shropshire Star and Mirage News confirm that water firms do not expect to bring in hosepipe bans this summer, despite the recent dry weather. Companies confirmed that restrictions are not likely unless the next few months are “exceptionally dry”. The guidance that industry and the public should continue to use water wisely is carried in coverage.

At the meeting, Sir James Bevan met with government departments, the Met Office, National Farmers Union (NFU) and water company CEOs to agree the action needed to support farmers and wildlife as well as conserve water supplies if the dry weather persists. The NFU urged farmers to consider how they could be affected by running out of water and to make plans, where possible, to manage water shortages.

Following the meeting, Environment Agency Chief Executive Sir James Bevan said:

Ahead of the summer months, the National Drought Group met to agree action to reduce the risk of drought measures and damage to the environment.

Some rivers and groundwater supplies are below average so the Environment Agency is ready to respond to incidents over the summer and we are supporting farmers where possible by flexing water abstraction licences and with water trading. We welcome action the water companies are taking to ensure maintenance of supply over the coming months.

The water that comes from the tap is taken from rivers and reservoirs and the amount we use has direct effect on wildlife, the environment and agriculture. The National Drought Group collectively asks industry and the public to use water wisely.

A full position statement from the NDG is available on

NAO audit report on the Future Farming Programme

Image of green hills in the countryside

Today there was coverage in the Financial Times, Farmers Weekly, Farmers Guardian, Yorkshire Post and The Poultry Site of the NAO audit report on Defra’s Future Farming and Countryside Programme, which set out why the government should approach its roll-out of the future farming policy carefully to ensure farmers can prepare for any changes.

The report sets out concerns with the timescales in which information can be provided, as farmers will need time to prepare for participation in a three year national pilot of the Environmental Land Management scheme.

The government has provided the farming community with the maximum possible certainty by setting out a transition period starting in 2021, giving farmers the time they need to adapt to our new farming policy. Defra has also been working closely with stakeholders to develop the new Environmental Land Management scheme.

Our National Pilot will provide an opportunity for new policy to be tested rigorously so that any lessons learnt can be implemented into the final scheme before that is rolled out to farmers and land managers across the country.

Farming Minister Robert Goodwill said:

After years of inefficient, unfair and outdated policy under the CAP, our ambitious plans for a new land management system will unlock the potential for farmers and land managers to deliver environmental benefits that go hand in hand with a profitable, productive business.

We do not underestimate the scale of the task in implementing the new Environmental Land Management (ELM) scheme, which is why we are involving such a wide range of stakeholders in its development. We will be running a National Pilot over three years to test the policy and make sure we get it right, implementing the lessons learnt into the final scheme. We will also set out more specific detail on what the ELM scheme will pay for well in advance of the pilot being rolled out.

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