CFE gets the nod from most arable Barometer growers

As the push to publicise the Campaign for the Farmed Environment on farm begins this month, Andrew Blake discovers most of our Barometer farmers welcome the recently launched scheme.


The Campaign for the Farmed Environment shouldn’t be viewed as simply countering set-aside – it should be seen as a positive benefit to the environment, according to Tony Reynolds.

“If we recall where this started, a mandatory 6-8% set-aside was to be the rule – totally arbitrary, with no benefits other than to satisfy special interest groups.

“That the campaign has been turned into a positive environmental national policy is tribute to the dedicated team that produced it.”

Farmers should accept it enthusiastically, he believes.

Tony-Reynolds“We either get on with the CFE or the minister has stated very clearly that he will return to the original proposal – set-aside.

The options have been set out logically, demonstrating practical appreciation of farming, he added. “And more to the point they’re targeted to the benefit of farmland wildlife.”

His most likely choices include grass buffers, field corners, over-wintered stubbles, and reduced herbicide use preceding the latter. Some pollen and nectar strips could also be included as offering most wildlife help on the farm.

“We were in a pilot area for Entry Level Stewardship, but the rule changes precluded our re-signing. We’ve been in limbo since. waiting to see how things would turn out.

The result is very clear now, and we’re to apply for Higher Level Stewardship status.”


Andy Barr’s farm is in an Organic Entry Level Stewardship scheme, having been in ELS and Countryside Stewardship.

“I have beetle banks, grass buffers along watercourses, field corners, wild bird seed mix, over-wintered stubbles and cultivated margins.

“At the next renewal I would happily swap some hedge options into cover crops and whole crop silage followed by over-wintered stubble on the organic land.”

If he needs to do more voluntarily he may plant a wild flower mix beside the main road as a farming advert. “I’m sure I’m seeing a lot more wildlife around the farm than I did 10 years ago, so hopefully the schemes I’ve been in are doing good.Andy-Barr

“All the options provide compensation for land out of production; but anything voluntary will certainly cost me up front.”

“Determining whether the money would be well spent could be hard to judge, he said. “It may be, in immeasurable ways. If this is what our customers want then providing it should help our sales; and visible options may generate goodwill towards British produce. If the scheme’s successful let’s advertise our ‘voluntary’ boost to the countryside!

“Free signs from the NFU advertising it where we put features along footpaths and roads would be a start.

“Doing something now may help avoid harsher legislation that would cost us more, and more predatory insects and bee pollinators could even help my crops in unseen ways.

“I enjoy helping wildlife and it will make me feel better. I always prefer farming crops for production, and margins for wildlife.” The CFE should make those aims easier and more effective than “fudging” via low crop input options, he concluded.

South West

snellPeter Snell is in his final year of Countryside Stewardship.

His scheme includes lapwing plots, 6m grass margins around two-thirds of the fields, and three sets of arable reversion to grass on awkward or wet corners.

“When we come out of stewardship we probably won’t go into HLS as we won’t quite meet the criteria, though this needs further investigation,” he said.

He is keen to keep most grass margins but might reduce them to 3m and sow new ones. Most of the arable reversion would remain, but lapwing plots would go.

One CFE aim is to encourage farmers into and to continue with ELS, he noted. “We’ve been in ELS since near the beginning, and have another two years to go. We gain points from management plans, over-wintered stubbles, and two-yearly hedge-cutting.

“We could use some of our ex-CSS options to meet our CFE requirements. And with voluntary steps, I like the idea of sowing pollen/nectar mixtures which would benefit wild, bumble and honey bees. Apparently phacelia makes particularly good honey as well as being attractive.

“I think farmers are very good at protecting environmental features and are best placed to manage them whilst operating profitable businesses.

“A voluntary scheme like the CFE allows them flexibility to carry on the good work they’re already doing.”

Most costs are repaid, he noted. “The farmer should also benefit from the satisfaction of improving their farm and the wildlife within it – I know I enjoy walking our home farm and derive pleasure from the small things we do.

“Yes, it will involve more form filling and some additional work; but that’s far better than compulsory set-aside and extra cross-compliance measures.

“We might be able to square up some field dog-legs or remove an unproductive wet corner. We must think positively.”