Do the Farming Rules for Water actually hold non-compliant farmers to account?

  • Wildfish
  • Wildfish
  • Wildfish
  • Wildfish

WildFish (formerly known as Salmon & Trout Conservation) have written to Defra and the Environment Agency (EA) to clarify if the EA can now hold non-compliant farmers to account under the Farming Rules for Water.

WildFish has been concerned for decades about the increasing impact of agriculture on water quality in English rivers. We have commissioned scientific studies – highlighting the effects seen in rivers – and argued strongly for more robust regulation.

The introduction of the Farming Rules for Water in 2018 was a hopeful step in the right direction.

It was the open intention of the Government to implement the Farming Rules for Water with a ‘soft touch’. For the first two years following introduction on 2nd April 2018 the regulations would be applied lightly, and they were. This was an approach WildFish did not support.

Two years have now passed and we can be sure that there cannot be a responsible farmer in the country who is not aware of the obligations.

WildFish has been increasingly alarmed to note that the initial period of light-touch enforcement has effectively been extended. The EA is now guided by Defra only to deal with breaches by way of advice and guidance. Added to which it has insufficient resources to inspect farms.

Despite Defra’s amended guidance – after we threatened judicial review – we doubt anything has changed on the ground. We have written to Defra and the EA for clarification.

Nick Measham

CEO, WildFish

WildFish considers the Government’s overall attitude to be worrying. The impact of agriculture is fast moving out of control – rivers and the species that live in them are suffering the consequences.

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