10 May 1996

Environmental conditions attacked

COUNTRYSIDE groups have attacked the lack of government commitment towards attaching environmental conditions to arable support payments.

Nine organisations have this week written to farm minister, Douglas Hogg, claiming there was mounting evidence of substantial environmental damage to landscape and archaeological features in arable areas, declining biodiversity and pollution from pesticides.

Ben Plowden, Council for the Protection of Rural England head of land use policy, said other member states, such as Sweden, Denmark and Holland, were showing a growing interest in cross-compliance.

"MAFF is fiddling while the arable environment continues to decline. The best way for the UK government to stimulate such a debate is to stop stalling and implement its own commitment to arable cross-compliance."

Jim Dixon, RSPB senior agriculture policy officer, revealed that it had offered last year to set up a pilot arable extensification incentive scheme, which would have covered 50 farms in Berkshire, Hertfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Bedfordshire. Mr Dixon said the £1m project, which could have been run under the countryside stewardship scheme, was rejected by MAFF on cost grounds. &#42