Defra sets out farming water rules under its ‘green Brexit’

Defra has announced new rules for farmers that aim to improve water quality across the country as part of its vision for a green Brexit.

In summary, it will require farmers to keep soil on the land, match nutrients to crop and soil needs, and keep livestock fertilisers and manures out of the water.

Environment minister Thérèse Coffey said the rules, which will come into effect on 2 April 2018, are a “win-win” for farmers and the environment.

See also: Advice to help you protect your farm during flooding

“They will help improve water quality, set a level playing field for all farmers, help businesses save money from better resource efficiency and improve their resilience,” said Dr Coffey.

In total, there are eight new rules (PDF), five about managing fertilisers and manures and three on managing soils. 

The fertiliser rules require farmers to test soils, then plan and apply their fertiliser or manure to improve soil nutrient levels and meet crop needs.

They include minimum storage and spreading distances from water bodies. Farmers will also be required to assess weather and soil conditions to reduce the risk of runoff and soil erosion.

The remaining rules require farmers to manage livestock by protecting land within 5m of water and reducing livestock poaching. 

Organic fertilisers

In addition, farmers are encouraged to incorporate organic fertilisers into the soil within 12 hours of spreading to significantly reduce ammonia pollution.

Farming rules for water are part of a whole package of measures to help farmers and land managers look after the environment.

The government is also investing £400m through its Countryside Stewardship scheme, which supports farmers in creating or restoring precious habitats.

A £12m farm ammonia reduction grant has also incentivised farmers to tackle agricultural emissions.

“Our ambition is to be the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than we found it and these new rules will help us deliver our plans for a green Brexit, along with a better future for farming business,” added Dr Coffrey.