HC Deb 20 November 2000 vol 357 c16W
Mr. Todd

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will discuss with Ofwat proposals to encourage water companies to offer support to farmers who are committed to methods of cultivation and land management which reduce pesticide usage. [138302]

Mr. Mullin

Diffuse sources of pollution, including from the inappropriate use, mis—use or run—off from agricultural pesticides, fertilisers and cultivation (erosion) can increase the cost of purifying drinking water. The regulatory regime provides an incentive for water companies to adopt the most cost—effective way of delivering clean water to their customers. In some cases, there will be scope for innovative approaches to cutting treatment costs by reducing diffuse pollution. This could include supporting farmers in reducing their usage of chemicals, and I very much welcome the efforts of those water companies who have chosen to do this.

However, water companies are not responsible for the environmental quality of water more generally. The Government therefore believe that the principal channel for financial support for environmentally friendly farming practice should continue to be agri—environment measures. Expenditure on these measures will more than double in England over the seven year period of the England Rural Development Programme. The Government have published Codes of Good Agricultural Practice to help farmers protect water, air and soil, and also the Green Code for the safe use of pesticides. We are also encouraging the Environment Agency to focus more regulatory effort on the causes of diffuse pollution, particularly where bathing waters or river water quality objectives are threatened.

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