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Agriculture: Pollution Control

Volume 490: debated on Monday 30 March 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of his Department’s policy on minimising pollution from arable farms. (263585)

Under the Nitrate Pollution Prevention Regulations 2008, farmers in areas of the country designated as nitrate-vulnerable zones (NVZs) have to comply with a set of mandatory rules regarding the use and management of manure and nitrogen fertiliser for the purpose of reducing water pollution caused by nitrates from agricultural sources. The Department has established a project to evaluate the effectiveness of these regulations at tackling nitrate pollution. The evaluation of the effectiveness of the original set of NVZ rules (established by regulations in 1998) is available on the DEFRA website at:

http://www.defra.gov.uk/environment/water/quality/nitrate/pdf/consultation-supportdocs/g3-nit18-report.pdf

In addition, within DEFRA’s agri-environment schemes—Environmental Stewardship and the predecessor schemes Countryside Stewardship and Environmentally Sensitive Areas—funding is available for environmental management which will contribute to improving water quality, including, for instance, the use of buffer strips, and the management of maize crops on arable land. Other options in Environmental Stewardship, such as beetle banks and under sown spring cereals, may also contribute to reducing diffuse pollution. In 2010 it is currently planned to introduce further resource protection options into Environmental Stewardship, such as wider buffer strips and the use of cover crops. These schemes are subject to regular evaluations.