Water Pollution from Farming

I would like to assure you that the Government is committed to the environment. Farming activities are a main source of water pollution in the UK and the Government is working with farmers to reduce pollution and encourage better practices and reforms. Ministers committed through the Environmental Improvement Plan and the Plan for Water to review farming regulations to ensure they are fit for purpose.

The Environment Act 2021 includes a target to reduce nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment pollution from agriculture into the water environment by at least 40 per cent by 2038, compared to a 2018 baseline. In addition, farms are subject to robust regulations on agricultural activities which could cause environmental harm, including through the Farming Rules for Water and the Nitrate Pollution Prevention Regulations. These set out clear standards and a baseline with which farmers must comply.

Further, the Government announced in its Plan for Water that it would provide £200 million of funding through the Slurry Infrastructure Grant for new and expanded covered slurry stores in the highest priority areas of England, for example protected nature sites in unfavourable condition. Ministers will also enable the use of on-farm technologies for better use of slurry, including slurry separators, and help farmers store, transport, and apply their organic nutrient through the Farm Equipment and Technology Fund. This will involve investing £25m to drive innovation to help farmers manage plant and soil nutrients.

The Sustainable Farming Incentive, Countryside Stewardship (CS) and Landscape Recovery schemes will provide farmers with funding support for regenerative measures that reduce water pollution and improve biodiversity. CS funding is improving farm infrastructure, such as roofing for manure stores to keep dirty water and effluent separate from rainwater and prevent contamination.

Finally, the Government has also made extra funding available to the Environment Agency for 50 new farm inspectors to ensure that agricultural diffuse pollution regulations are followed. This enabled them to conduct 4,000 farm inspections in the last fiscal year. I am assured that if the Environment Agency finds pollution or significant risk of pollution, it will not hesitate to take further action.