Arable farmers warned to act on environment campaign
ARABLE farmers in England have been urged to turn ‘good intentions into action’ in response to concerns over the limited impact so far of the Campaign for the Farmed Environment (CFE).
The results of a Defra survey monitoring farmers’ response to the campaign showed 40 per cent of farmers had no intention of taking any action in response to the campaign.
Of 3,000 farmers surveyed in February and March, a quarter had taken action in direct response to the campaign and, of the remaining 75 per cent, half intended to do so in future.
The survey showed 58 per cent had ‘good’ or ‘some’ understanding of the campaign, while 42 per cent had ‘limited, little or no idea’ of what the campaign is about.
The campaign was launched last November, after former Defra Secretary Hilary Benn agreed to a voluntary industry-led policy to replace the environmental benefits of set-aside, rather than new regulation requiring farmers in England to manage land for environmental purposes.
The catch was that the threat of regulation would always be there if the campaign failed to deliver environmental benefits on a voluntary basis, with a number of targets set to measure success.
Campaign leaders acknowledged that more needs to be done on farms to ensure the campaign delivers its aims, a message that will be driven home at next week’s Cereals 2010 event, in Cambridgeshire.
Country Land and Business Association president William Worsley said: “It’s encouraging to see that so many farmers and land managers are behind the Campaign but we must not become complacent. Now is the time to turn supportive words into action.”
NFU president Peter Kendall warned that the threat of regulation remained, despite the change of Government. He highlighted the contrasting situation in France, where by 2012, farmers will be required to enter 5 per cent of land into agri-environment schemes.
“We have been given the opportunity to work with others to show we can both produce food and care for the environment. We have now reached a critical point where good intentions need to be turned into action for the initiative to meet the scheme’s targets and avoid regulation in the future,” he said.
He said Cereals would be ‘a really good opportunity to reiterate again that it is not a big ask’.
The RSPB, which initially campaigned for a statutory policy but is supporting the campaign, said the survey showed the ‘challenge the Campaign has ahead of it to get the farming industry fully engaged in making sure its aims are met’.
The Campaign to Protect Rural England said it had ‘serious concerns’ over the survey’s results and warned farmers were in anger of scoring an ‘own goal’.