Efra Committee on the Water White Paper

Published on Friday, 06 July 2012 15:42
Posted by Scott Buckler

The recognition by a group of MPs of the importance of a secure water supply for agriculture has been met with approval by the NFU

It comes following yesterday's publication of the Environment Food and Rural Affairs Committee report on the government's Water White Paper.

In the report, the committee recognises the importance of ensuring that the agricultural sector retains access to a reliable water supply and recommends that the Environment Agency maintains a constructive dialogue with farmers and food producers, recognising their key role in promoting self-sufficiency and food security.

NFU Deputy President Meurig Raymond said: "Water is critical to many of our members' businesses and security of supply. Following two consecutive years of dry winters and the expected growing influence of climate change, water security is of increasing importance in agriculture.

"Continued access to abstracted water at a minimised environmental impact will be vital to meet future food production and to meet the challenges ahead.

"However, while we recognise the potential opportunities in the reform of the abstraction regime for some farmers and growers through the exchange of water rights on a seasonal basis, we have reservations about the committee's recommendation to bring the reforms forward.

"What would be more important to us is to get any changes right and to ensure that these meet our future needs, rather than rushing the reforms through.

"The 2012 drought highlighted to the NFU the importance of building a regime that helps secure a fair share of water rights for agriculture in the long term for food production.

"Investing in water infrastructure on farms and designing a regulatory regime which allows more responsive and flexible access and sharing of water for cropping needs must all part of the mix.

"For example, the additional flexibility that the Environment Agency extended to winter water abstractors in allowing farmers to abstract at times of higher flow rather than during "seasons" proved invaluable.

"And part of the debate has to be a review of the fiscal incentives for water infrastructure to include tax relief, and identifying barriers to the building of reservoirs."

Source: ©NFU

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