The industry-led campaign to stave off a return to set-aside has been extended amid concern it will miss its targets before a key summer deadline.
DEFRA has agreed to fund a six-month extension to the Campaign for the Farmed Environment (CFE), which will now continue until December 2012.
Jim Egan, chair of the CFE delivery group, praised farmers, land managers, agronomists and farm advisers who have contributed to the achievements of the campaign.
The scheme requires farmers in England to undertake voluntary environmental measures on their land. Now in its third year, it must get enough support to ward off the threat of a return to a compulsory set-aside scheme.
The latest figures show that 54,393ha of farmland nationally in England is under key CFE/ELS options – still some 25,000ha short of the June target of 79,342ha.
But Mr Egan insisted that those who have supported the scheme should be proud of their efforts.
“I’m very pleased that there has been an extension to the valuable work that has been carried out for the CFE,” said Mr Egan, also from the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT).
“It’s great to see that campaign partners and farmers are continuing to work together to try and make this work.”
However, Mr Egan cautioned that more work was needed for the campaign to succeed. “We still have the June target to work towards and there’s a lot still to do.”
About 64% of farmers have responded to the CFE February survey, which was sent out to 5,500 farmers with more than 10ha of arable land.
“Farmers who haven’t returned their survey forms still have another 10 days to do so,” said Mr Egan, on Friday (30 March). “It’s important that farmers demonstrate to us what they are doing on farm.”
Looking ahead, Mr Egan hinted that campaign leaders were not looking to make “wholesale changes” to the campaign targets.
More details about the future of CFE will be revealed at Cereals 2012, on 13-14 June, at Boothby Graffoe, Lincolnshire.