The England catchment sensitive farming delivery initiative has been in place since April 2006 and is being delivered jointly by Natural England and the Environment Agency on behalf of DEFRA. It is currently based in priority catchments covering a little over a third of the agricultural area of England and its purpose is to encourage farmers to take voluntary action to tackle diffuse water pollution, mainly from nitrates, phosphorus, sediment, pesticides and livestock faeces.
The main elements of the initiative are: 40 priority catchments served by a network of 42 catchment sensitive farming officers working locally; a programme of farmer workshops, farm demonstrations and farm visits; partnership with the pesticides voluntary initiative; local catchment steering groups bringing together farmers, water companies and other stakeholders; a capital grant scheme. In its first two years the initiative also supported 20 projects, with similar aims and objectives, in other catchments.
In February 2008 DEFRA launched Future Water, the Government's new water strategy for England. This stated that DEFRA will continue to support farmers on catchment sensitive farming for a further three years. DEFRA has since confirmed that the England catchment sensitive farming delivery initiative will receive funding of £12.9 million in 2008-09. Most of the initial programme is being rolled forward for a period of six months, with a new programme planned from October.