Jim Paice: CFE is chance to show voluntary approach works

Farm minister Jim Paice sets out the background to his ‘Go green or else’ warning to farmers in the article below:


From next Monday, we will be asking farmers and land managers up and down the country to tell us what environmental benefits their land is delivering.

The annual survey of land managed under the Campaign for the Farmed Environment (CFE), which goes out to 5,500 farmers and land managers, will tell us what voluntary measures they have put in place to support the campaign. I will be very interested to see the results.

The government is putting food production back up the agenda, but we have made it clear that this must be done alongside protecting and enhancing our wildlife, soil and water. Farmers keep telling me they are the best custodians of our countryside so now they must prove it by creating an environment where vulnerable species can thrive, yet recent statistics – on wild bird populations, for example – show that numbers of some farmland birds are still in decline.

The CFE has the potential to achieve great things and it has been encouraging to see so many farmers renewing their ELS agreements over the past 18 months. But I am concerned that farmers are still not rising to the challenge.

We are not seeing enough of the target options that will deliver better environmental outcomes, such as more farmland birds and wildlife, being put in place voluntarily.

We need to see more field corner management, buffer strips, pollen and nectar mixes, and wild bird seed mixes. There are no excuses for this – a whole network of local campaign co-ordinators, partners and wider industry are on hand to give advice tailored to each holding.

I have stressed, many times, the importance of placing trust in our farmers. I know how tough the job can be and I know that they want to get on with that job rather than spending time filling in forms, answering questions and complying with ever more rules. The CFE is the farming industry’s chance to demonstrate that a voluntary approach can work better than regulation. That farmers are best placed to decide on, and tackle, their local environmental priorities without intervention.

Every farmer and land manager has the power to make the CFE a success. They need to work with their agronomists and advisers to decide the best way that their own land can contribute to the campaign. I hope that many are doing these things, but have not been telling us; but we do need to know if you are.

The CFE will run, in its present form, until 2012. But if the farming community doesn’t start to deliver results voluntarily then, reluctantly, I will have to consider a compulsory approach to deliver these same benefits.

That’s why I will be looking carefully at the CFE’s progress during 2011. I look forward to hearing more about the progress that farmers are making to protect our wildlife and justify the trust that we are placing in them.

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