Fewer than 5% of leading dairy producers have a thorough understanding of the Water Framework Directive unveiled in 2000, despite it containing obligations for all producers to help improve water quality.
But to add to the mire and despite all EU countries agreeing to achieve good water quality by 2015, some parameters for diffuse pollution control have yet to be established by DEFRA, explained Amy Sullivan, NFU water policy adviser.
At the very least producers may need to invest capital into measures such as fencing off watercourses to avoid erosion and pollution – whether soil particles carrying nutrients or faecal pathogens from farm animals – to meet these as yet unknown targets for diffuse pollution under the WFD, she explained.
“However, it can be a win-win situation for producers.
For example, in the Tamar Valley group studies have shown fencing a watercourse on one farm cost 250, but resulted in fewer cases of lameness, saving 2 a head for a 200-cow herd.”
Jimmy McLean, head of agri-services at Royal Bank of Scotland, told delegates that capital expenditure in this area may be a necessity to continue farming and not a way of generating additional income. “Make allowances,” he said.
DEFRA is expected to draw up guidelines on minimising risk of diffuse pollution – that which cannot be pinpointed to a particular source – through best farm practice in the coming months, added Dr Sullivan.