Government consults on eco-friendly farming

Following EC plans to scrap payments for farmers who left fields uncultivated to avoid over-production Government is looking for views on ways to protect biodiversity on agricultural land.

Until recently farmers could claim subsidies for set aside land as part of Europe’s efforts to control food production.

This had the additional bonus of providing important habitats for wildlife and reducing pollution from pesticides and fertilisers.

But the latest CAP health check has scrapped these subsidies, removing the cash incentive for farmers leaving fallow land.

This week Environment Secretary Hilary Benn announced the publication of a consultation paper looking at how the UK might avoid losing the environmental and biodiversity benefits.

It will also seek views on introducing wider buffers alongside water courses to protect water quality from run-off, how best to promote hedgerows and how to encourage farmers to take a more active role in managing soil quality and erosion.

Mr Benn emphasised the need to strike the right balance between reducing burdens on farmers and ensuring that the natural environment – on which farming depends – is maintained.

He said: “Farming is hugely important, not just to produce the food we eat but also to maintain the landscape which we hold so dear and on which our ability to produce food in the future depends.

“We stand ready to support an industry-led way of doing this if it can deliver what’s needed, with industry-wide ownership and leadership.

“Farmers do much to help already, and we need to ensure that the environmental benefits of set aside are not lost amid regulations.

“That’s why it’s important that we get views from all interested parties so that we can protect and enhance natural wildlife habitats without hindering farmers.”

David Gibbs

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie