Water Directive unfair to farmers

11 July 2001

Water Directive unfair to farmers

By Tom Allen-Stevens

GOVERNMENT consultants have estimated that costs to farmers of adopting a new Water Framework Directive could be as high as 175 per hectare.

The National Farmers Union has reacted aggressively to the European Commission Directive.

It denounced the costs, which were based on income foregone in joining existing agri-environmental schemes, as financially unsustainable.

“We are deeply concerned that this Directive will impose costs that are impossible for agriculture to bear, said NFU vice president Michael Paske.

“We are extremely worried that the commitment the government is making cannot be sustained by the industry, at least not without some help.

The Directive, aimed at ensuring all water bodies achieve the target of “good quality status” by 2015, was enacted in December 2000.

It has only recently been passed on for consultation by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

The next step will be to appoint a organisation to put in place programmes to monitor the “good quality status” for each water body (river, lake, estuary, groundwater, etc).

Tipped to be the Environment Agency, its job will be to set targets for the reduction of pollutants, such as phosphates and pesticides.

These targets will be different for each body of water and will depend on local economic and environmental priorities.

Local interested parties, including farmers, may be involved in setting up the parameters.

It could result in no further action being necessary, or a target reduction of 90% or more.

The programmes must be finalised by 2009 and come into effect by 2012.

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