THE stink about 'when and how manure can be spread on fields' has now been tackled by an influential group of MPs this week.

Many Cumbrian farmers have told the Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee that the controversial Farming Rules for Water, as interpreted by the Environment Agency, meant they could not spread orginic fertiliser on their fields in an efficient way.

The EA, on the other hand, said its rules were designed to stop pollution and did not prevent responsible fertiliser spreading.

Tuesday’s session took evidence from the Tenant Farmers Association, experts in soil and water issues, and senior officials from the EA.

Dr Neil Hudson, MP for Penrith and The Border and Member of the EFRA Committee said: “Our cross party EFRA Committee has been working hard with rural stakeholders to get clarity on the difficult situation that has arisen around the Environment Agency’s current interpretation of Farming Rules for Water.

“This has made it incredibly difficult for farmers to manage their spreading of organic material, which often needs to be in Autumn. Our urgent inquiry session this week was really helpful and we will work with stakeholders and Government so that farmers can move forward clearly to look after the land positively and practically.”

The Chair of the Committee, Neil Parish MP, said after the evidence session:“Farmers have been rightly concerned at mixed messages they have received from the Environment Agency about soil husbandry - and when and how they can spread organic fertiliser.

“But today’s informative and constructive session made it clear that all parties are committed to finding a solution which makes the most of good organic matter while reducing pollution.

“I was pleased that the Environment Agency and the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs committed during the session to publishing new and very clear guidance on this issue for our farmers by early Spring".

Meanwhile, responding to the new rule change,the Country Land and Business Association’s (CLA) Chief Land Use Policy Adviser Susan Twining said: “It is good to see that the Environment Agency has taken on board industry concerns in this latest guidance, but it is still likely to have a big impact on many businesses, both practically and economically, with little time to adapt plans for this year.

“Of course, water quality should never be compromised. A healthy water environment is key to ensuring wildlife can flourish, and everyone has their part to play.

“But further thought is urgently needed on how to balance the value of organic material for building soil health and benefits for carbon sequestration, reducing reliance on manufactured fertilisers, improving water holding capacity and associated flood risk.”