Appetite for conservation farming ‘is on the increase’

A CAMPAIGN championing a voluntary approach to farm conservation says there is an appetite within the industry for its approach.

The Campaign for the Farmed Environment (CFE) in the East Region has been holding a series of Farm Walk and Lunch events for farmers across the region in November, in partnership with the Farming Advice Service.

The aim is to bring farmers onto farms which demonstrate best practice in conservation farming and explain important upcoming changes to environmental stewardship and cross compliance.

The national campaign has smashed its target of increasing the land under voluntary management by 30,000 hectares. A survey of farmers in February suggested 35,000 hectares is managed voluntarily in England for wildlife and resource protection.

These measures are in addition to land in Entry Level Stewardship (ELS) and other agri-environment schemes. Under the ELS scheme there is currently 5,800,000 hectares of land being managed across England.

In Suffolk, the amount of land managed in ELS under one of the Campaign’s ‘Key Target Options’, which are considered to have the greatest benefit for wildlife, has risen by 100% and the figure in East Anglia as a whole is over 70%.

The region’s CFE assistant co-ordinator Jilly McNaughton said it was important for the industry to successfully demonstrate the voluntary approach to environmental stewardship is working in the light of the upcoming ‘greening’ element of Common Agricultural Policy reform.

Most Read

“We are having a really encouraging response from farmers for this series of events which we think demonstrates the appetite among the industry for the voluntary stewardship approach and their continued interest in supporting the campaign as it comes to the end of its first three year phase,” she said.

“We are urging more farmers to join or renew their Entry Level Stewardship scheme, as well as to record with the Campaign what conservation measures they undertake voluntarily on their land, to prove to Government, both here and in Europe, that farmers can steward the land responsibly without further regulation.”

The campaign was set up three years ago by the farming industry to encourage farmers to take up voluntary conservation measures to replicate the perceived environmental benefits of set-aside.

It reached the end of its first phase in June 2012, and was extended to the end of the year. It is currently awaiting a formal announcement that it is to be continued for another three year period. Visit http://www.cfeonline.org.uk/ to find out about CFE.