The NFU has admitted the Campaign for the Farmed Environment is not working as well as it could.
Union President Peter Kendall said farmers’ enthusiasm towards the campaign – designed to stave off compulsory set-aside – needed bolstering.
But it was the perfect opportunity for the agricultural industry to prove it could be trusted to do the right thing without the need for regulation, he added.
“Yes we are struggling with messages and not going as well as we would like,” he told delegates at an NFU fringe event at the Liberal Democrat party conference in Liverpool in Monday (20 October).
“But it’s a good example that we don’t need regulation and we can sort it out.”
Responding to a question about whether CFE could really work without farmers being offered a financial incentive, Mr Kendall said the scheme could work.
Taking a swipe at RSPB chief Mark Avery, who has raised concerns over whether farmers could deliver the benefits of set aside without regulation, Mr Kendall said he spent too much time reading negative comments about the campaign.
“If we are going to get the campaign for the farmed environment to work we need to be positive and enthusiastic,” he said.
“There are too many people saying it won’t work without money or regualtion.
“There’s no funding there but it’s got to work – there’s no point in saying there’s no money there so it won’t.”
Melanie Leech, Food and Drink Federation director general, said producers did not always need a financial incentive to “do the right thing”.
“Sometimes we make decisions just because it’s the right thing to do,” she said.
“They don’t always have an immediate pay-back that you can hand on to the consumer, but businesses still decide to do those things because it’s right. CFE is an example of that.”