In creating a pathway to a sustainable future, whether that be tackling pollution, sustainable sourcing or production, there is a running theme which ties these elements together: collaboration.
So when it comes to water pollution, where are the opportunities for water companies and farmers to work together for mutual gain – and how do farmers feel about collaboration?
The National Farm Research Unit (NFRU) asked farmers across the UK their opinion on collaboration and how they view the importance of water within their farm operations.
“Clean and plentiful water”
The government’s 25-year environmental plan has been set out to address environmental challenges. Within this is the Landscape Recovery Scheme which provides incentives for farmers to make positive changes. The first round of funding has recently closed which focused on restoring England’s streams and rivers.
Regulations have since come into force to support the provision for “clean and plentiful water” such as the restrictions on the use of Metaldehyde slug pellets, which were banned as of 1st April this year. UK farmers believe this will provide a competitive advantage to farmers abroad who can export into our markets while using crop protection materials which are banned here.
A report from UK Parliament stated that agriculture affects more than 60% of failing rivers, with sewage effluent affecting over half. It was noted this was a result of a poor understanding by farmers of existing regulation contributing to low compliance with policy interventions.
Going forward, government legislation proposes to move beyond the fragmentary policy of the past to a systems approach with the aim to deliver environmental improvements and mitigate the pressures faced by freshwater ecosystems. To achieve this, farmer engagement is key.
Farmer attitudes to collaboration
To make significant changes to improve the environment, farmers need to engage with the schemes available and be open to the idea of working collaboratively for a mutual gain.
Reduction of pollution and the most efficient use of water have been ranked as the most relevant factors to a farm business by the poll undertaken by NFRU. This highlighted that farmers are more likely to collaborate with water companies in these areas, with more than 22,000 stating that collaboration is essential to tackle pollution.
Water companies are encouraging farmers to join them in schemes specific to priority catchment areas to help mitigate the impact from pesticides and other run-off from agricultural land on water quality.
The number of farmers engaged in these schemes has reportedly significantly increased over the past year. In turn, farmers are compensated for the water quality in their sub-catchment area.
Not only can farmers benefit from a payment through the scheme, but also the change of practice in relation to chemical management, specifically nitrogen, will provide a more efficient and cost-effective use of materials.
* The National Farm Research Unit interviews more than 18,000 farmers in UK and Ireland on a rolling basis. All the data is weighted up from our sample to estimates for the whole population using our Farm Structures Model.
https://researchbriefings.files.parliament.uk/documents/POST-PN-0661/POST-PN-0661.pdf< View more articles