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Farmers across the whole of England can now access specialist advice designed to reduce water pollution, however, the move does not signal an increase in grant funding.
While an expansion of the area eligible for Catchment Sensitive Farming (CSF) advice has been welcomed there are concerns that it does not signal an increase in the reach of actual grant funding.
Sam Dale, Rural Associate Director at GSC Grays believes the question of funding is important and would support a system based on a water quality risk on a case-by-case basis rather than the current pre-defined areas.
He explained: “It is obviously positive news that all farmers in England are now able to access CSF advice that was previously only accessible by farmers in high or medium priority areas in relation to water quality.
“However, this must not be mistaken with grant funding being available to all, this area expansion only relates to advice.
“Certain water quality capital items such as concrete yard renewal and roofing over manure storage or sprayer wash down areas will remain only accessible to farmers with strong justification and within priority areas. Other Countryside Stewardship options will continue to be available to all areas.
“Farmers in pretty much all sectors are experiencing greater levels of financial risk currently and funds may not be available to implement all CSF advice without grant assistance. As a result, there is a strong argument for a system whereby businesses were assessed case by case on a water quality risk basis rather than pre-defined areas.”
Government figures show that since 2006, 24,000 farms have benefited from CSF advice, helping farmers take more than 80,000 positive actions to reduce pollution. Reductions in agricultural pollutants include nitrogen levels, which are down 4%, phosphorus levels, which have decreased by 8%, and a 12% reduction in sediment.