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The UK Agriculture Partnership: reflections on the first meeting

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Farming across the UK
Grazing marshes/dyke Halvergate Marshes
Copyright Natural England/Peter Wakely

Even though agricultural policy in the UK is devolved, each country in the union can benefit by working together.

The UK Agriculture Partnership (UKAP) is a forum which meets to share technical information on common challenges.

The subject of our first meeting was water quality.

Our aim was to understand the nature and scale of the challenges, and how we could address them together.

We were joined by representatives from the devolved administrations, universities, research institutes and farming organisations.

Speakers included senior academics and researchers from the universities of Bristol, Durham, Exeter, Lancaster and Leeds. We were also joined by the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute, the Rothamsted Research Institute and the British Geological Survey.

There were also speakers from Wales Water (Dŵr Cymru) and Yorkshire Water, the Linking Farming and Environment (LEAF) organisation, and Natural England

In this post, we'll share some insights from our first meeting and a video of the event.

Agriculture and water quality

Agriculture has a significant impact on water quality and water-dependent ecosystems. With the right support, farmers have the potential to help improve water quality across the UK.

A range of issues associated with water quality were discussed. We covered:

  • the scientific evidence on water pollution
  • the industry perspective including the influence and drivers for change from the food industry 
  • the benefits of different agencies working together
  • the wider context of climate change and food production 

Understanding and applying the science 

The latest research evidenced by the universities of Bristol, Durham and Lancaster in their presentation gave participants valuable insights into the growing problem of nutrient pollution affecting ecosystems and reducing biodiversity.

In particular, organic and particulate nitrate and phosphorous were having a significant impact on watercourses and ecosystems.

Levels of nitrate and phosphorous in watercourses had a significant impact on water quality. This underlined the importance of using nutrients and fertilisers responsibly and efficiently. 

Working together 

Water quality is linked to issues including soil health and the effects of climate change which exacerbate nutrient pollution problems affecting the ecosystem and human health. 

Participants heard from the good practice that is already happening with water companies, landowners and government agencies working in collaboration.

The event also highlighted the role of the agriculture and food industry and how a systems-based approach can help engage businesses to take action. 

The role of farmers

Farmers must be supported with the right information, tools and resources to manage land in a way that reduces the impact on water quality. 

We discussed the work Natural England has been doing to roll out a national programme of farm advice. This advice is designed to help farmers and others through the transition. A network of advisers supported future business decisions while addressing the impact of farming on water quality.

By building on the good work many farmers are already doing and learning from them about approaches that do and don’t work, we can find practical solutions to water quality issues. 

Watch the launch event

Looking ahead 

As well as understanding the nature and the scale of common agricultural challenges such as water quality, UKAP needs to concentrate on identifying and sharing solutions. We'll blog about our progress. 

We recently held our second UKAP meeting in Northern Ireland at the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE).

The subject of this meeting was soil health which is closely linked to water quality. We’ll blog about this event very soon, so do subscribe to the blog.

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  1. Comment by Daniel Frederick Stover posted on

    Please advise the membership of the UK Agricultural Partnership in your next post. I cannot find that information and wish to know which long-standing, well-known, high performance farmers are members as I am sure they must have much to contribute alongside the academics and other partners.

    • Replies to Daniel Frederick Stover>

      Comment by The Team posted on

      Hi Daniel,

      Thank you for your question. At the moment, there is no published list. Each meeting focuses on a different topic, so attendance varies. Every meeting is open for people to register their attendance.

      Holly asked the same question below and we're going to work out how best to present the list of attendees. It'll likely be in the blog posts which follow each meeting.

      Best wishes,
      The Team

  2. Comment by Holly Jones posted on


    Do you have a list UK Agriculture Partnership (UKAP) is a forum members please? I cannot find one on the .Gov website.

    Thank you

    • Replies to Holly Jones>

      Comment by The Team posted on

      Hi Holly,

      Thanks for the question. At the moment there is no published membership list for the UK Agriculture Partnership (UKAP).

      Each meeting focuses on a different topic relating to the agriculture sector in detail, and therefore attendance varies for each meeting, depending on the expertise and interest areas of participants.

      Each meeting is open for stakeholders to register to. Attendees at the last 2 meetings included a mixture of academics, agricultural colleges, research institutes, farming unions, industry, regulators and government officials.

      Your comment has given us food for thought, and we'll explore how we publish information about membership.

      Best wishes,
      The Team


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