The final survey of farmers for the Campaign for the Farmed Environment could be crucial in deciding its future, say campaign leaders.
The campaign has until June this year to gain enough support to fend off burdensome regulation and a possible return to a compulsory set-aside scheme.
The third and final CFE monitoring survey is being sent on 20 February to 5,500 farmers and land managers with 10ha or more arable land in England.
CFE national campaign co-ordinator Victoria Hicks said: “We are on a countdown and have six months to make the campaign work.
“The final survey is a crucial data set. It’s going to be directly comparable to last year’s survey so that we can see what progress has been made on the previous 12 months.
“We will also be able to conclude overall what has been achieved in the lifetime of CFE.”
Current figures show that 52,961ha of land in England is placed in CFE/ELS options – a 34% increase since July 2009 when the voluntary campaign started. The aim is to reach nearly 80,000ha by June.
Farm minister Jim Paice said last month he was pleased with the progress of the campaign. But he added that it was vital that farmers and growers continued to support against the background of CAP reform proposals.
Ms Hicks said: “The next six months will certainly be a crucial time for the campaign and it’s important we don’t lose momentum.
“By managing 3-4% of farmland well, either through our voluntary measures or our target options in ELS, farmers can show they can deliver a healthy environment alongside productive farming.”
The CFE aims to show that farmers can retain and exceed the environmental benefits by introducing voluntary measures on farm, which used to be provided by set-aside.