By Isabel Davies

THE NFU has launched a new long-term campaign to make sure the public knows what farmers do to protect and enhance the environment.

The campaign, Making Green Ground, aims to highlight farmers” role in shaping the way the countryside looks today.

 It follows new research, commissioned by the union, which showed that the public sees farmers as the custodians of the countryside and farming as an integral part of British culture and heritage.

 But the research, carried out by Opinion Leader Research, also found that farmers need to be more vocal about what they exactly do to promote the environment.

Seventy-four per cent of the 1000 people questioned as part of a survey in February 2005 said farmers should have support payments linked to conservation. “It is clear that the public want farmers to carry on maintaining the countryside, but it is up to us as an industry to explain exactly how we do this,” said union president Tim Bennett.

 good work

“Making Green Ground will celebrate the good work that farmers already do and also look forward to the challenge of building a sustainable future.”

Mr Bennett said farming had a great story to tell and he wanted producers to have the confidence to tell it.

“We have cleaner rivers than ever before, more farmers than ever in conservation schemes, wild birds such as corncrake and stone curlew returning to farms, 1m hectares of access land opening up this year and in the last 10 years we have planted 6000 miles of hedgerow,” he said.

 “Celebrations, challenge and partnership are the themes of this campaign. We want to rebuild farmers” confidence that they are the natural stewards of the countryside and promote the public”s confidence in that role.”

 Mr Bennett said the Making Green Ground campaign would be a long-term process which would be rolled out over the coming months and years.

As a first step the union has produced a fact sheet which sets out farming”s contribution to managing and protecting the environment. It is hoping that members will use the facts in the leaflet (see below, left) when they are talking to consumers, so they can explain positive points about the environmental aspects of farming.

 Mr Bennett said it was important that farmers talked in a language that ordinary people could understand and also made sure that they were meeting the concerns of ordinary people not just the concerns of individual pressure groups.

“The aim is to have a really good dialogue about what we do in the countryside and why we do it,” he said.

As part of the campaign, the union is also planning an environmental policy forum in May to discuss the research findings in more detail and a conference which will be run jointly with two environmental groups.

isabel.davies@rbi.co.uk