This was according to Defra Secretary Michael Gove as he announced the government’s Clean Air Strategy – with particular emphasis on reducing the reported 88 per cent of ammonia emissions from agriculture.
The department vowed to support farmers to invest in infrastructure and equipment to reduce emissions, as well as introducing regulation to require farmers to use low emission, holistic farming techniques and minimise pollution from fertiliser use.
It follows the £3 million government programme through the Catchment Sensitive Farming (CSF) partnership, introduced in September last year, to fund a team of specialists on training events, tailored advice, individual farm visits and support with grant applications.
CLA chief land use policy advisor Susan Twining said the funding would help boost the industry’s current contribution measures.
She said: “Funding for new technology and research will pave the way for more sustainable production systems and the advice offered by the Government in line with the rewards through the Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS) will help farmers adapt and invest in the changes needed.
“However, while the extra funding is welcome, it is vital to ensure that any future regulation will enable farm businesses to remain economically viable, and we will work with government to ensure that the recommendation and timescales are acceptable.”
The Sustainable Food Trust said industrial agriculture was ‘a major contributor to air pollution due to the 120 million tonnes of artificial nitrogen fertiliser used globally every year’ – and work should be done in moving instead towards mixed farm systems ‘which utilise forage legumes, such as clover, to rebuild the soil’s natural nitrogen levels’.
Policy director Richard Young said: “Future ‘public goods’ funding should be used to help shift farming systems in this more sustainable direction.”
Liz Bowles, head of farming at the Soil Association, said while UK emissions of nitrogen oxides had fallen by about 70 per cent, ammonia emissions have remained ‘stubbornly high’ – having recently increased again.
She said the ambition of the government’s strategy would only be realised if government introduced new food and farming policies that specifically supported the shift away from intensive livestock production methods, instead promoting grass-based systems and organic.
“However, we recognise that if poorly managed, all types of farming systems can cause ammonia pollution and we want to work with government to ensure this Strategy translates into a plan to ensure farmers adopt practices that transform nitrogen from being a pollutant to being an effective source of fertility,” she added.
Efra committee chairman Neil Parish however hit out at the government, suggesting the car industry was also ‘partly responsible for our toxic streets’.
Mr Parish said: “We should not forget that inner city areas suffer the most with poor air quality. We would like to see the Government take stronger action against car manufacturers as part of any upcoming legislation to improve air quality.”