AN agricultural expert is warning farmers about the risks of farm pollution, after figures revealed 50 incidents occurred in Yorkshire and the North East in the past decade.

Environmental Agency (EA) figures, obtained through a Freedom of Information request, showed that more than one in 10 waste and water pollution incidents (11 per cent) in England took place in the region over a 10-year period.

Thomas Jones, on farm account executive with Farmers & Mercantile Insurance Brokers, said he is worried too many farmers are not aware of just how destructive farm pollution can be to the environment – or the severe penalties they face if prosecuted.

“What many farmers don’t realise is that the latest sentencing guidelines mean they could be slapped with unlimited fines, or up to five years in prison, if found responsible for a pollution breach,” he said.

“Couple this with the fact that the Environment Agency is pushing for farmers who damage the environment to lose their government grants, and you have a situation which many farmers simply could not recover from.

“In summary, farmers’ businesses are being put in serious jeopardy because of carelessness.

“This is not a risk any farmer should be willing to take.”

Mr Jones warned that, while insurance may cover the cost of any clean-ups, it is not available to cover the cost of substantial fines imposed when farmers don’t comply with the law.

“Farmers should ensure their knowledge of environmental legislation is up-to-date and that they closely follow guidance from the Environment Agency.

“Risk assessments should be conducted, such as identifying low-lying areas and waterways vulnerable to effluent runoff, and checks should be routinely carried out, from ensuring silage clamps and slurry containers are sound and secure to examining nearby waterways for signs of pollution.

“So, prevention not only provides peace of mind but may in the future reap benefits, if the Environment Agency realises its objectives to protect the environment for future generations.”