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The call follows the publication of a report by Lord Haskins, the Government’s rural recovery co-ordinator, into the state of the Cumbrian rural economy following the disease outbreak, which outlines measures required for the recovery of tourism and other small businesses in the region.

The Environment Agency’s proposed environmental management standard for farming is intended to be a core part of whole farm management plans that include business, welfare and environmental needs, with strong emphasis given to natural resource – soil, water and air – conservation. The standard needs to be both effective and flexible, permitting farmers and land managers to take the actions that are best suited to their land, says the Agency.

For practices with minimum pollution risk, the Environment Agency will provide support and advice, but higher risk practices would be more tightly regulated, an Agency spokesman told edie. Currently, pig and poultry farming are being prepared for regulation under Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC), which is due to come into effect in a couple of years.

Successful adoption of a basic environmental management standard could allow farms to demonstrate regulatory compliance without the need for inspection, says the Agency. This means that the Agency could then focus its resources on providing technical advice and on regulating the small number of farms that present issues such as a history of pollution offences.

The Environment Agency is critical of the European Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), which encourages farming practices that cause damage to the environment. There are also fears that foot-and-mouth disease, BSE and collapsing farm incomes are pushing farmers towards short term survival measures which may have longer term implications for the environment.

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