Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Threat to farming in East Anglia

East Anglia is one of England's most productive and intensively farmed regions but it may not be producing arable crops in quantity for much longer if a report from the rural advisory service ADAS is to be believed.

Farming is the most important diffuse source of water pollution in the EU and tough new targets to reduce it have been set by the EU's framework directive on water quality. According to ADAS, the pollution from chemically intensive farming is proving highly difficult to control. Despite an overall reduction in the use of fertiliser and pesticide additives avross the region, levels of diffuse nutrient pollutants in UK waters are continuing to rise, posing a significant threat to acquatic wildlife and, in the long term, public water supplies.

The problem is particularly serious in East Anglia because of the relatively dry regional climate, which is gradually becoming drier and warmer because of global warming. This means that there is less rainwater available to dilute water contaminants.

ADAS concludes that the problem can only be addressed by significant changes in land use, including the removal of sizeable tracts of farmland from production. As much as half of the arable land in East Anglia could have to be converted into unfertilised restorative grassland or forest.

NFU sources are sceptical, however, that the problem is quite that serious, arguing that there is a get out clause that takes account of economic impact.

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