NFU pollution reduction figures deemed false by S&TA and AT
The Angling Trust and the Salmon & Trout Association have written to
the Director General of the National Farmers Union (NFU) demanding a
retraction of the NFU's false claims in its "Farming Delivers for
Britain" campaign that 73% of rivers are in good condition and that
agriculture is responsible for reductions in gross pollution since the
In reality most of the improvements to river water quality have been
achieved through investment in sewage treatment and that agriculture
remains a very significant and widespread source of pollution in rivers
Indeed, as the National Audit Office pointed out in a recent report,
it's the success of water company investment that has helped reveal
the true scale of diffuse pollution from agriculture. In many
catchments, agriculture is by far the biggest reason why water quality
and habitats are in a very poor condition.
The sad truth is that nearly three quarters of rivers in England and
Wales are failing to meet Good Ecological Status, the standard for
fish and plants and water quality set for a healthy river by the Water
Framework Directive, with farming the second most commonly identified
cause of failures. Erosion of riverbanks by stock, soil run-off,
fertilisers and pesticides, spreading of slurry on saturated and
compacted soil, and agricultural over-abstraction of water from rivers
and groundwater are all commonplace in our countryside and cause,
collectively, the death of many of our rivers by a thousand cuts.
Mark Lloyd, Chief Executive of the Angling Trust and Fish Legal said:
"Agriculture is damaging fish stocks and other aquatic wildlife in
nearly every river in the country to some extent. In many catchments
it is the principal reason why our rivers are not teeming with fish.
For the NFU to claim that our rivers are in good condition and that
they are to be congratulated is laughably disingenuous to anyone who
has any knowledge of the condition of our water bodies. Our lawyers
often take civil legal action against farmers on behalf of our member
clubs and riparian owners for gross pollution of fisheries and there
is a more widespread, insidious pollution of rivers throughout the
land from badly managed water, soil and animal faeces."
Paul Knight, Chief Executive of the Salmon & Trout Association said:
"There are, of course, many examples of farmers and landowners working
closely with fisheries groups, The Rivers Trusts and Agencies to
improve rivers and fisheries, and we commend their work. To make
progress, we need the NFU to be open and realistic about the scale of
the impacts of its industry on the water environment and show
leadership to its members about the need to take concerted action.
Also, Defra must realign agricultural subsidies and grants so that
farmers are compensated and rewarded for environmental protection,
building on the burgeoning success of the Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) Scheme."