What’s the solution?
The maximum fine is £50,000 but this level of cost is rarely imposed. “Punitive fines helps with some individuals but can be counterproductive,” said Ben Briggs of Farmers Guardian. “It just increases the sense of hostility that farmers can feel. A closer working relationship and more dialogue would be better.” “Fines work quite well but the Environment Agency has been cut and is unable to monitor as it used to,” says Mark Lloyd.
ALTER FARMING PRACTICES
Planting crops so that they slant away from rivers reduces the flow of sediment. Working with the weather, such as not laying slurry after heavy rain, also helps.
“Different farming practices are
winning favour,” says Briggs. “There’s more interest in not ploughing the field all year. If a large chunk of a field goes into a river, it’s not good for the environment and it’s not good for the farmer to lose that much quality of soil.”
“Some farmers have become
evangelical,” says Lloyd. “They see how the soil improves, their yields go up.”
The NFU’s Diane Mitchell advocates buffer strips and infield grass strips; planting and harvesting in good conditions; helping rain permeate, rather than run off, by leaving a rough soil surface.