A WARNING has been issued to farmers over the risks of farm pollution, after figures revealed 50 incidents occurred in the region in the past decade.

Environmental Agency figures, obtained through a Freedom of Information request, showed that more than one in ten waste and water pollution incidents in England took place in the North-East and North Yorkshire region over a ten-year period.

Farm pollution incidents can have a devastating impact on wildlife, ecosystems and, in some cases, human health - for example, silage effluent can be up to 200 times more toxic than untreated sewage if it gets into the waterways.

In the wake of these figures, Thomas Jones, On Farm Account Executive with Farmers and Mercantile Insurance Brokers, says 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.

“Couple this with the fact that the Environment Agency are 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, whilst 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.

He said: “Agriculture remains one of the biggest sources of pollution incidents, with the Environment Agency branding it ‘a slow-motion environmental catastrophe’.”

“This is unsurprising, considering farmers are responsible for three quarters of the land in England, but much can be done to mitigate the risks."

Mr Jones said farmers should ensure their knowledge of environmental legislation is up-to-date and that they closely follow guidance from the Environmental Agency.