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Judicial review on nutrient regulations for farmers

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Environment Agency, water
Rural landscape aerial River Wye
Rural landscape aerial river Wye

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Today there has been media coverage on a Judicial Review by River Action on the Farming Rules for Water (FRfW).

Farming Rules for Water (2018) is one of the frameworks for the Environment Agency’s farming and agriculture regulation and sets out that farmers are responsible for minimising the risk of pollution from applications of nutrients to land and livestock management. The Environment Agency is using funding and regulatory powers to work with farmers to reduce water pollution, ensure they comply with the rules and tackle inadequate infrastructure, poor soil, and nutrient management.

The Environment Agency does not hesitate to take appropriate action, up to and including enforcement, when breaches of regulations are identified. Anyone who has a concern about pollution should notify the Agency immediately using the 24-hour incident hotline: 0800807060.

Last year the Environment Agency carried out more than 4,000 farm inspections across England, including 493 in the Wye catchment. This resulted in more than 5,000 improvement actions across England, and 285 improvement actions in the Wye, being undertaken to improve farm practices. This ranges from improving storage of slurry to better management of nutrients and soils.

There were 11 other prosecutions against farmers last year for causing pollution under the Environment Permitting Regulations.

The Farming Rules for Water are one of many regulatory tools used by the Environment Agency to manage the nutrient load in the Wye Catchment. Furthermore, the impact of farming is not the only source of nutrient levels. Phosphorus has accumulated over a number of years and is affected by climate change, flow levels in the Wye, increased housing development as well as industrial discharges from industry on the Wye.

An Environment Agency spokesperson said:

Since 2021 we have performed more than 7,000 farm inspections and required farmers to carry out over 11,400 improvement actions, including around the River Wye. These range from improving slurry storage to better management of nutrients. Our inspection regime is supported by the use of technology such as satellite images and drone footage.

Anyone caught breaching environmental laws faces enforcement action, up to and including prosecution.

We are unable to comment on ongoing legal proceedings.

A Defra spokesperson said:

We have set highly ambitious legally binding targets to reduce water pollution from agriculture. We are committed to working with farmers to deliver improvements; this includes conducting more than 4,000 farm inspections in the last financial year to help farmers comply with legal requirements.

We are also supporting farmers to deliver environmental improvements in their local areas through our Environmental Land Management schemes, which includes work to improve water quality, reduce carbon emissions, and create and preserve wildlife habitats.

We are unable to comment on ongoing legal proceedings.


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  1. Comment by Richard Ogden posted on

    Why is it that the river weed (ranunculus) has almost disappeared from the Wye in and around Ross?
    Also the once clean gravel is now covered with brown already.

  2. Comment by Anthony Johnson posted on

    You seem to recommend ringing the hotline to report pollution incidents in rivers. This is a complete waste of time as nobody comes back with any information. We have been reporting incidents since Dec 22 regularly after rain and even asked for FOI material last summer. Still no response. The only conclusion is the EA and DEFRA are not fit for purpose.

  3. Comment by Simon Broddle posted on

    Great to see they’re also checking and prosecuting water companies for discharging sewage!