Pledge to improve environmental regulation

Farming leaders have said that the Environment Agency's pledge to introduce more effective environmental legislation must be backed up by action on the ground.

The EA recently published its Spotlight on Business report, which looks at the environmental performance of business and the role of regulation. Farming is one of eight sectors analysed in the report.

Launching the report, EA chief executive Paul Leinster said: "Looking after the environment is a shared responsibility. Now we need to see more companies striving to do their bit by becoming greener, leaner and ready for the future.

"Business leaders may be concerned about the tough times ahead. But a difficult economic period is not an excuse for poor environmental performance. As Spotlight demonstrates, progress can be made without stifling growth. That's because addressing environmental issues can protect a company's bottom line."

The report states that, over the past eight years, pollution incidents as a result of farming have fallen, but highlights further challenges ahead in tackling diffuse pollution. For example, farming still accounts for 90% of the UK's ammonia emissions.

NFU vice-president Paul Temple said: "Farming's improving environmental performance is good news, as are the Environment Agency's commitments to implementing risk-based and more efficient regulation, but, as the legislative burden on farmers continues to increase, more action is needed to realise these good intentions on the ground.

The pig and poultry sector, introduced into the IPPC regime over the past year, was covered for the first time this year's report.

Temple said: "Complex regulatory regimes like IPPC are costly to implement and the long-term environmental outcomes are often forgotten in their design. According to a recent survey of our membership, regulation is now more demanding than ever before, with IPPC particularly highlighted.

"While we are not anti-regulation, we would like to see greater emphasis placed on more appropriate and proportionate approaches to regulation and, where needed, more incentives to reward good performing farmers and growers with fewer inspections and reduced regulatory costs."

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