The England Catchment Sensitive Farming Delivery Initiative aims to tackle pollution to rivers, lakes and streams from the run-off of farming waste and chemicals.

It does this through grants, catchment management and persuading farmers to look at more environmentally-sensitive working practices.

Defra will plough almost £13m into the scheme over the next year, £5m of which will be used for capital grants.

The expanded scheme adds a further ten priority catchments to the existing list of 40 and there will be significant increase in staffing levels on the project.

The scheme was originally set up in 2006 and since then has provided advice to over 6,000 farmers within the target areas.

Over three quarters of the farmers who received advice said they had taken, or where intending to take, action to tackle water pollution.

The scheme will be administered by Defra, Natural England and the Environment Agency.

Environment Minister Phil Woolas said: “Catchment sensitive farming is at the heart of a sustainable and responsible agriculture industry.

“The Government has made its commitment in this area and I know that our delivery partners will play their full part too.

“It is now up to the farming industry to work with us on this. The more we can do together the less need there will be for regulation.”

Helen Phillips, Chief Executive of Natural England said: “We know the difference improved water quality can make to species such as otters and water voles.

“Natural England and farming bodies have been asking for an extension to the scheme for some time, and we’re delighted that this has been agreed so the benefits can be fully realised.

“We can now look ahead with confidence to deliver catchment sensitive farming in partnership with the Environment Agency and the farmers involved.”

Sam Bond

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