12 April 2001
Water rules ‘a threat to farms’

By Isabel Davies

NEW legislation to improve water quality across Europe could prove crippling for British producers, the Tenant Farmers Association has warned.

In response to a consultation paper by the Department of the Environment, the TFA has warned that the costs attached could prove too much for the industry.

“The indicative costs to the agricultural industry are extremely worrying,” said TFA chief executive George Dunn.

“If the levels [predicted] are accurate they would threaten the earning capacity of large tracts of agricultural land up and down the country.”

The paper suggests that the cost of meeting the directives targets could reach 175/ha (70/acre) per year for arable land and 117/ha (47/acre) for grassland.

While stressing that the directive would not apply to every acre of land, the document uses the figures to produce an estimated annual bill for an average farm.

It suggests that the total bill would amount to 11,000 for the whole of a 64ha (158 acre) farm in England. In Wales the bill would be 9000.

Even if only 60% of the farm was affected the figures would only drop to 7000 and 6000 respectively, according to statistics in the report.

Mr Dunn said if the government was planning to make farmers comply with the directive, then there would have give them significant public support.

Without government support the future for farms in river basins was bleak, he said. “The government must proceed cautiously on implementing this directive.

“Close consultation with the industry must occur at an early stage on any proposals and the impact of those proposals needs to be carefully considered.”

The European Council of Ministers and European Parliament adopted the directive in September 2000, following four years of negotiations.

It aims to establish a strategic framework for managing water.

This will involve promoting sustainable water use and placing much of the Environment Agencys existing good practice on a statutory basis.

The government has promised there will be three phases of consultation on the legislation with the final stage expected to be completed in 2002 or early 2003.


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