28 June 2002

Water directive threat alarming, says Walker

Although attendance over the four days of the Royal

Highland Show was down about 8000 compared with two

years ago, the 135,000 people who did come through the

turnstiles at the Ingliston showground, on the outskirts of

Edinburgh, last week had plenty to see, do, eat and drink.

Despite the drop in visitor numbers, organisers were

delighted with the event, mostly because it signalled a

return to normality after foot-and-mouth

THE biggest threat to the future of farming in Scotland comes from the looming EU Water Framework Directive, mainly because the primary processing sector is unaware of the implications.

Speaking at the Royal Highland Show after the publication of a new report on agriculture and the environment, Jim Walker, NFU Scotland president, said: "To say it is alarming is an understatement. The Water Framework Directive will come into effect in two years time and the primary processors, like abattoirs, creameries, and vegetable processors, do not know what is looming."

Jeff Maxwell, chairman of the agriculture and environment working group, which produced the report for Scotlands rural development minister, Ross Finnie, said the group had been unable to get as much information from processors as it would have wanted.

One of the main problems was that environmental legislation in the processing sector is policed by a number of different public bodies. "It was difficult to determine which had responsibilities for what," said Prof Maxwell, recently retired head of the Macaulay Land Use Research Institute.

One of the reports 29 recommendations was the immediate establishment of a small working group to examine the implications of pending legislation for the processing sector.

Mr Walker, who was a member of the agriculture and environment working group, added: "Commercial food processing activity is vital to the future prosperity of farming in Scotland and this matter must be addressed urgently."

Commenting on the report in general, Mr Walker said it represented an important step forward. "It makes it clear that we are not faced with a choice between producing food and protecting the environment, but that there is a clear, shared agenda. Whats good for business is good for the environment," he said.

"The fact that there does not have to be choice between farming and the environment is a key difference to the attitude we see in England, where it seems that you can only be on one side or the other," he added.

At the launch of the report, Mr Finnie said: "For too long there has been a perception of conflict between agriculture and the environment. There are close and inextricable links and we must work together to find win-win solutions."

In addition to EU pollution legislation, the group, which was charged with examining the environmental issues which will affect farming and food processors over the next 5-10 years and advising how best to tackle them, concluded that the main priority for farmers is preventing diffuse pollution of water.

Prof Maxwell said part of the trouble was that farmers were not as aware of the problem as they should be.

A campaign to highlight farmers responsibilities, including the risks associated with chemicals, fertilisers and animal waste reaching water courses, was recommended.

Other recommendations include revising set-aside rules, introducing whole-farm plans to combine business and environmental objectives, changes to agri-environment funding, destocking sheep in the crofting areas, further examination of the impact of climate change, and restructuring the advisory system. &#42