The Agricultural Industries Confederation has welcomed the report, published by the UK Parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee into Nitrate in water which recognises the progress made by the agricultural industry over recent years.
AIC presented both written and oral evidence to the Committee which has been incorporated into the report.
“The reduction in loss of nitrate from UK farmland over the past 30 years, since the mix of legislation and environmental awareness has taken effect, is striking and above all encouraging,” says Jane Salter, head environmental policy, AIC. “There are still hot spots to focus on and the UK must not slide backwards but the industry must not let political headlines detract from the bigger picture and acknowledged progress.”
The Committee’s recommendations for longer term integrated plans for environmental protection are welcome, particularly developing a new UK system of governance, replacing the function of the European Commission, and looking forward to ways that link environmental and economic sustainability. AIC is committed to continuing to work with Government on science-led policy.
In its evidence, AIC provided analysis and interpretation of independent data, enabling the Confederation to present concrete evidence to MPs that showed:
- average river concentrations for nitrate are less than a third of the legal requirements.
- 80% of ground waters monitored contained less than the legal limits for nitrate’ thus helping reduce pressure on achieving drinking water standards.
- Farmers already use around 40 percent less nitrogen fertiliser to sustain grass and crop yields than 30 years ago. This results from combining organic and mineral fertilisers with ever improving farm nutrient balancing tools and advice. The efficiencies on farm are measurable which means the same amount of food, or in some cases more is being produced with less.
“These results are not a reason to be complacent, but it does show that the issue of nitrates is moving from a problem to a solution,” said Mrs Salter. “Effort must now be focussed where it is most needed and environmental legislation must be used more intelligently to offer joined up solutions for both farms and the farmed environment.
“The more society understands the link between their life and the nutrient cycle, the more informed political debates can become. We have a moral responsibility to help reduce the confusion presented in headlines.”