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East Anglia: Farmers urged to get behind voluntary conservation drive

11:00 05 July 2014

NFU vice president Guy Smith

NFU vice president Guy Smith

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A leading East Anglian farmer has called on his colleagues to get behind a voluntary farming conservation drive to future-proof their businesses as farming groups urged the sector to get on board with the initiative.

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National Farmers’ Union vice president Guy Smith, of St Osyth, underlined the importance of adding value to farmland by grasping the opportunities created by new greening options promoted by the Campaign for the Farmed Environment (CFE), an initiative backed in recent announcements by Environment Secretary Owen Paterson.

The Government says it is looking to the farming industry to work together to achieve environmental benefits through voluntary measures, and in particular to achieve benefits for pollinators. But it has warned that it is keeping the effectiveness of CFE in meeting these objectives under review.

“It’s really important that farmers get behind CFE in order to future proof our farm businesses,” said Mr Smith.

“One important measure we can all do is retain the buffer zones and margins on our farms that have the most environmental impact. These are crucial, not just for wildlife, but also for improving water quality and are an integral part of good pesticide stewardship. For example on my farm we will put our Entry Level Stewardship (ELS) margins against our Ecological Focus Areas (EFA) and leave them as our EFA when our agreement runs out in 2016.”

CFE, an industry-led initiative of 14 partners, already advises farmers across the country.

However, with opportunities created by the new EFAs, CFE is urging farmers to demonstrate how they manage their land to benefit the environment in order to retain government trust.

National CFE co-ordinator Sam Durham said: “Farmers need to act now. Greening is here and the industry must build on government trust to ensure future regulations work in our favour, while benefitting the farmed environment. Simple voluntary environmental efforts can make greening work for everyone.”

Dr Alastair Leake, director of policy at the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust, said fallow land and field margins could benefit wildlife in many ways.

“These strips can provide much more for wildlife by including a wild bird seed or nectar mix. This management can be agronomically beneficial and help control weeds as well as providing for farmland birds,” he said.

Country Land and Business Association (CLA) president Henry Robinson said: “Farmers have the unique responsibility of balancing food production and environmental protection. The coming months give a real opportunity for farmers to show responsibility and leadership on the environmental challenges facing the industry. One way of doing this is through CFE voluntary in-field measures, designed to complement our greening choices.”

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