A coalition of leading environmental groups is calling for a single European Sustainable Land Management Policy to replace the existing CAP.

Wildlife and Countryside Link, which includes the Campaign to Protect Rural England and the RSPB, wants to see existing farm support payments phased out and replaced with “support for positive land management”.

Link fears that, unless the CAP is transformed, money for farmers and land managers to enhance our landscapes, wildlife, woodlands and historic environment will dry up.

Sufficient financial incentives

Despite a shift away from production-linked supports under the 2003 Fischler reforms, farmers who want to look after wildlife and the environment are not given sufficient financial incentives, says the group.

It notes that under-spend on this year’s CAP budget has already been redirected away from farming and the environment to the Galileo space programme. Some of the money that could have been used to put life back into the countryside is being spent on space exploration.

“We need to find a new way of paying for the management of our environment which ensures secure supplies of food as well as a beautiful countryside, rich in wildlife and our historic assets for the public to enjoy,” said Link’s farming and rural development group chair, Ian Woodhurst.

Environmental assets

“Further big changes to the CAP are imminent, along with a review of the EU’s budget. Climate change and globalisation mean that land managers should now be given realistic incentives to continue to deliver and manage our environmental assets.

“Policy and funding should be dedicated to managing the countryside for a wide range of public benefits. We urge the government to work with us to make this a reality.’

Link’s views are spelt out in a new report “Beyond the Pillars: Wildlife and Countryside Link’s Policy Perspective on the Future of the CAP”.