Big CFE push needed to avoid compulsory set-aside

The Campaign for the Farmed Environment will need a late surge in support if it is to meet targets aimed at staving off a return to compulsory set-aside.

The campaign was devised to show that the farmers could be encouraged to adopt environmental measures voluntarily rather have legislation foisted upon them.

In the two years since the campaign was launched on 5 November 2009, there has been a 32% increase in farmer uptake of CFE target options in Entry Level Stewardship.

With less than a year left before the campaign ends in June 2012 more than 11,600 of the 41,600 existing ELS agreements contain CFE options.

But although this means 52,317ha in England come under key target options, the figure falls well short of the target 79,342ha.

Farm minister Jim Paice warned earlier this year that he could introduce environmental legislation if the CFE failed.

On Tuesday 1 November Mr Paice added: “There is still a lot to be done over the next six months to ensure that the campaign truly delivers on its promises.

“We hope that farmers will continue to give the campaign their wholehearted support and many more will join them to help make it a success.”

CFE campaign coordinator Victoria Hicks admitted that a surge in support for the campaign was needed to meet this target.

While Ian Woodhurst, senior farming campaigner for the Campaign to Protect Rural England, blamed external pressures for the lack of progress.

“Voluntary approaches will always be susceptible to outside influences, such as cereal price spikes,” he said.

“In addition, the proposed greening element in CAP reforms of dedicating 7% of land as an ‘ecological focus area’ may also be causing confusion among farmers.”

He said CFE has not been able to build on its positive start, but it would be a “real shame” if it failed.

“There are some very good farmers doing a lot for CFE, but many are not pulling their weight and making sure these voluntary approaches work,” he said.

Farmers can support the campaign in two ways – by gaining at least 30% of their ELS points from choosing key target options, or putting 3-4% of land into CFE voluntary measures.

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