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Farming Rules for Water

Last updated: 03 Aug 2020

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On April 2nd 2018, the Farming Rules for Water (otherwise know as the Reduction and Prevention of Agricultural Diffuse Pollution (England) Regulations 2018) came into force.

What are the rules for?

There are 8 rules which aim to:

  • promote good practice in managing fertilisers and manures
  • encourage land managers to take reasonable precautions to prevent diffuse pollution from runoff or soil erosion
  • require soil tests at least every 5 years

What are the rules? 

The full details on all the rules can be found here

Where can I find further clarity on Rule 1: planning use of manures and fertilisers?

Following the introduction of the Farming Rules for Water, there was some uncertainty among farmers about the implications of the first rule on specific organic manures and the timing of spreading.

The Environment Agency produced further guidance around the 'Clarification on Rule 1'. 

How can I demonstrate I comply with Rule 1?

You will have to demonstrate how you have planned your nutrient needs to comply with Rule 1. To do this you will need to:

  • Plan what nutrients you are going to spread on the land
  • Ensure that these nutrients are only applied in quantities that are sufficient to meet and not exceed the crop or soil need on cultivated agricultural land
  • Ensure that they must only be applied at a time when they will be needed by the soil and a crop on that land.

The Environment Agency (EA) will be expecting industry recognised guidance such as the Tried & Tested Nutrient Management Plan to have been used to assess compliance with the rules. If a land manager can supply evidence for deviating from a recognised nutrient management system (such as RB209) The EA will take this into consideration.

If you are 'New to nutrient management planning' why not take a look at Tried & Tested's easy to follow short guide?

All Tried & Tested resources are free to use and can be downloaded or orderd via the website here. 

Is there a guide I can download or print off?

Tried & Tested have produced a briefing on the rules which is available here.

Are the rules the same for NVZ's?

While there is some crossover between the Farming Rules for Water and other rules such as those for nitrate vulnerable zones (NVZ) and storing silage, slurry and agricultural fuel oil (SSAFO), it is quite possible to be compliant with one set of rules and not the other.

For instance, if your farm falls within an NVZ, you may need to take extra steps to comply with the farming rules for water beyond those found in The guide to cross compliance in England 2019. This is because the farming rules for water require farmers to have regard to more nutrients than just nitrogen.

It is also worth noting that regulators can still bring enforcement action under the NVZ and SSAFO rules to address poor manure management, soil run off and water pollution without taking the advice-led approach of the farming rules for water beforehand.

Do I already comply with the rules?

You would need to check against each of the rules to see whether you meet the new requirements - there’s more details in the longer and more formal description of the rules we’ve published alongside this.

We expect that most farmers are already likely to comply with the rules. You are responsible for making sure that you comply, as failure to do so after April 2018 may result in an enforcement action.

If you don’t already comply with the new rules then you should review your farming practice and consider what changes are needed so that you can meet the requirements.

Are the rules legally binding?

Yes - the rules are now legislation and the introductory phase has past.

The Environment Agency (EA) will be the regulator for these rules. It will check compliance through its existing programme of work with farmers.

The EA will work with farmers by providing advice on how to meet the rules and help make sure they are compliant. The EA can use their formal enforcement powers where necessary to ensure compliance and to prevent or stop pollution. We expect that most cases will be dealt with by issuing advice and if necessary, through the use of civil sanctions such as compliance notices, with prosecution reserved for where other enforcement actions have failed.

Where can I find our further information?

Further information

  • Government guidance on the rules can be found here.
  • A Q&A document to answer the most frequently asked questions can be viewed on the Farming Advice Service website.
  • You can contact the Environment Agency’s National Customer Contact Centre, Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm by dialling 03708 506 506 or emailing [email protected].
  • If you are an NFU member, you can speak to a specialist adviser in their CallFirst team by dialling 0370 845 8458.