British agriculture faces fresh criticism following news that the National Farmers Union (NFU) has directly funded efforts to overturn river protection measures.
Across 40 river basins and over 200 land users, the NFU has worked with consultants Hafren Water to fight against “nitrate vulnerable zone” designations, designed to reduce harmful impacts on freshwater ecosystems, The Guardian revealed.
The Union announced the funding in a video to members obtained by investigative journalism body Point Source, although it has refused to disclose the sums involved. Protected sites that have already lost designations include Derbyshire’s River Dove and Lancashire’s River Calder. Decisions on other contested zones are ongoing.
With agricultural run-off the single biggest polluter of English rivers, environmentalists and anglers are concerned. “The NFU’s efforts to reduce the number of nitrate vulnerable zones is part of a broader push to deregulate farming,” said Salmon and Trout Conservation boss Nick Measham. “It should be using its resources to make members true stewards of the countryside instead of seeking to gain regulations so that farmers can increase their profits at the expense of the environment.”