Farmers and environmentalists must do more to work together if agriculture is to maintain a decent share of the EU’s future budget.
Payments were increasingly moving towards so-called Pillar II measures (such as stewardship) and failing to embrace such moves could mean money being distributed to other areas of rural or economic development outside agriculture, he said.
“Unless agriculture joins with environmentalists, the amount of money available will get smaller, which will be to nobody’s benefit.”
Compared with other European countries, he said the adoption of Pillar II measures in the UK had been particularly successful. The uptake of stewardship schemes meant that cirl bunting numbers, for example, had increased significantly since the mid-90’s.
But he was worried what impact the ‘biofuel boom’ and associated demand for land would have on biodiversity. “Voluntary schemes can’t be relied on to deliver environmental goals. The direction we’re going in feels like the wrong one to me and I’m not sure government and farming unions should be so bullish about biofuels.”
The current CAP ‘health check’ would further highlight the importance of meeting environmental goals, added John Marsh from the University of Reading. “Pillar II measures have not yet been fully applied or funded across the EU, which was part of the reason for having this health check.
“Also, the EU will have to develop a new financial perspective for beyond 2013 because governments don’t want to find more money and there is increasingly a greater demand for help in Eastern Europe,” he said.
“We’re at a critical point. Decisions made over the next few years will have a major influence on what land managers do,” Mr Avery said.