A recent article in the Guardian (20 June) wrongly claims that the Defra Guidance to the Farming Rules for Water would have allowed farmers to spread manures and slurry on land in a way that would overload it with nutrients and risk pollution of rivers and that this has been withdrawn. Today’s Telegraph carries similar commentary.
This is inaccurate and misleading.
On 9 June the Secretary of State revised the statutory guidance issued to the Environment Agency on 30 March 2022 in order to clarify a small section (2.2) in response to questions raised by stakeholders. We blogged about this here.
The section was subsequently amended to clarify guidance to the Environment Agency on assessment of soil and crop need when planning nutrient applications. The amendment does not change the impact of the guidance.
The statutory guidance is intended to support the Environment Agency as they work with farmers to reduce water pollution from agriculture. It explicitly guides the Environment Agency to take into account, when determining whether it is appropriate to take enforcement action, the extent to which farmers have implemented important precautions against pollution, including nutrient application rates, establishing green cover over winter, and incorporating manures into the soil after application.