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Laws & Compliance Agriculture

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Statutory Code of Practice for farmers on fertiliser and slurry management to protect water bodies from pollution. Written by technical specialists from Defra and Natural England, produced in association with the Environment Agency. In the event of a pollution incidence, failure to meet the Code of Practice will be used as evidence in a prosecution.

Nitrate Vulnerable Zones (NVZs) are areas designated as being at risk from agricultural nitrate pollution. They account for approximately 55% of agricultural land in England. Defra undertakes a review of the designated NVZ areas every 4 years to account for changes in water quality. You have a legal requirement to follow the NVZ rules. If farmers are claiming under the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) or certain Pillar II Schemes such as Environmental or Countryside Stewardship, failure to comply with the rules could result in a reduction in Basic Payment Scheme(BPS) payments.

Farmers must take steps to prevent manure, fertiliser and soil getting into watercourses – known as diffuse water pollution (pollution). These rules apply to farming or horticultural practices, such as: using and storing organic manure (manure) or manufactured fertiliser (fertiliser) planting and harvesting soil management – for example, ploughing or planting cover crops managing livestock on land. The Rules are very detailed about the management of livestock near watercources - for example... Farmers musy prevent livestock compacting soil by trampling it (poaching) within 5m of an inland freshwater or coastal water. Farmers must not place livestock feeders: within 10m from inland freshwaters or coastal waters within 50m of a spring, well or borehole where risk factors mean there’s a significant risk of pollution Farmers must take reasonable precautions to prevent pollution from managing livestock. Examples include: moving livestock to prevent poaching and bankside erosion; putting up fences to keep animals away from watercourseswintering livestock on well-drained, level fields. The Environment Agency is responsible for enforcing these rules. It will do this through its farm inspections work. This may include checking: the farms is meeting the distance restrictions in the rules for soil erosion affecting a single area of more than 1 hectare for poaching on a stretch of land (at least 2m wide and 20m long) next to an inland freshwater or coastal water for signs of fertiliser use in restricted areas – including excessive growth of vegetation on the margins of restricted areas fertiliser records, including records you keep on calibrating fertiliser equipment soil test results for evidence of pollution or if there’s a significant risk it could happen the types of crops being planted. How enforcement will work If the Environment Agency finds farmers breach the rules, it will help farmers by: identifying the changes farmrs need to make agreeing a timescale to make changes To check farmers have made changes, the Environment Agency may: give farmers a follow-up visit ask for evidence, such as photographic evidence of a change If there’s already pollution or a high risk of pollution, the Environment Agency may take enforcement action. This may include prosecution. This guide relates to The Reduction and Prevention of Agricultural Diffuse Pollution (England) Regulations 2018 which came into force on 2 April 2018.

Diffuse agricultural pollution is contamination of the soil, air and water environment resulting from farming activities. This pollution tends to arise over a wide geographical area and is dependent on what happens on the surface of the land. Activities such as ploughing, seedbed preparation, crop spraying, fertiliser spreading and applying slurry may all contribute to diffuse pollution. Run-off from farm roads and yards, the surface of fields and dusty roofs after rainfall are all potential sources of pollution. There is therefore a wide range of potential diffuse pollution sources which are associated with farming practices and which can harm the environment. Diffuse pollution from agriculture is a significant source of pollution in England as it is estimated that approximately 70% of land is farmed.

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