Agriculture gets assistance in wading through environmental legislation

The Environment Agency has launched its latest NetRegs information service, this time for the agriculture sector. The organisation has also launched a scheme to assist farmers in managing water sustainably.

NetRegs, the Agency’s environmental legislation advice service to small businesses, now contains advice for 18 sectors, from electronics to textiles, food production to sewage disposal. The new agriculture section includes advice on all potentially harmful activities, such as the storage of brewers grains and molasses, emissions to water from kennels and catteries, and soil erosion from arable land.

“We are very concerned about the burden of environmental legislation on agricultural and horticultural businesses,” said National Farmers Union President Ben Gill. Farmers and growers – as with other businesses – do not have the time to sift through environmental legislation, said Gill, welcoming the NetRegs service as a solution.

There is good news, as far as agriculture and the environment goes, however. The Scottish Agricultural Pollution Group has published its latest pollution review, which reveals that 2001 saw the lowest annual number of agricultural pollution incidents recorded in Scotland. The review emphasises that last year’s foot-and-mouth disease outbreak had a marked effect on inspection and monitoring in rural areas, and it could be that a number of pollution events went unrecorded.

For agriculture in England and Wales, the Environment Agency has also published a new booklet, Waterwise on the Farm, explaining how the agriculture industry could save money by using water more efficiently. Agriculture constitutes a high percentage of water taken from some river catchments, particularly during periods of low rainfall.

The booklet provides advice on carrying out a water-use inventory, and ways to reduce water use. The book gives examples of efficient water management, one being that of a Kent nursery that has put together a recycling system that collects rainwater from roofs and runoff from container standing beds, cutting its water use by 58% and saving £30,000 per year, paying itself back in four to five years. The water is transferred by pipe to a holding lagoon, pumped into a reservoir and the used for irrigation.

“Farmers and other agri-businesses have an important role to play as custodians of the countryside,” said Environment Agency Chairman Sir John Harman.

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