CLAlashes out at
By Isabel Davies
THE Country Landowners Association has slammed a new report which says that the government should adopt new cross-compliance rules meaning farmers would have to meet stricter environmental conditions to qualify for support payments.
The independent report, commissioned by the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, has concluded that new cross-compliance conditions should be considered in the UK to build on existing measures.
The most radical of the papers suggestions, is a recommendation that arable farmers should be made to put 6m field margins around all fields eligible for area payments.
But a spokeswoman from the Country Landowners Association said further regulation was unacceptable as it would add to the burden on farmers.
"We do not consider that it is sensible, suitable or practicable to create a relationship between farming subsidies and the management of the environment.
"It is quite one thing to legislate for what people cant do but quite another to say what people must do," she added.
At the moment only limited cross-compliance controls are in place. Currently there are rules in the livestock schemes to discourage overgrazing and in the Arable Area Payments Scheme there are guidelines to encourage environmental management on set-aside.
But the report, produced by the Institute for European Environmental Policy, puts forward further options which it argues would deliver valuable environmental benefits while still being feasible for farmers.
It identifies over 30 possibilities but suggests that priority is given to the following four key areas over the coming year:
* Reinforcing existing environmental regulations.
* Making it a general duty to observe Codes of Practice.
* Introducing a requirement to draw up an environmental farm plan.
* Requirement to put field margins around all AAPS eligible land.
Despite objections from farmers who claim extra conditions will complicate life and add to costs the government faces considerable pressure to accept cross-compliance.
Ministers from MAFF and DETR need to make a decision because as part of Agenda 2000 the government agreed to take appropriate action to ensure "environmental protection requirements".
Jonathan Curtoys, agricultural policy officer for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds agreed farmers did need to be more aware of Codes of Practice.
But he added: "Many farmers have been doing good things and we wouldnt want those to be punished."
An NFU spokeswoman said the union was seeking an early meeting with MAFF and the DETR. She stressed a careful balance was needed between achieving tangible environmental benefits and imposing unrecoverable costs.