26 April 1999
Landowners call for more green cash
By FWi staff
FARMERS need more money if they are to manage the countryside in an environmentally sustainable way, delegates to a conference were told on Friday.
Ian MacNicol, president of the Country Landowners Association (CLA), said it was unreasonable to expect farmers to subsidise uneconomic activities out of their own pocket.
“Imaginative solutions will be needed – of which securing greater resources for incentives is a key element,” he told listeners at this years Cirencester Conference.
“Nature conservation activity depends on the economic viability of holdings.”
Mr MacNicol suggested that a “Land Stewardship Programme” in could ultimately absorb 30% of total expenditure under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
“Funding of this order would make an enormous difference to the ability of land managers to deliver landscape, wildlife, heritage and recreational management services to the public.”
In the UK this would represent funding of some one billion per year, rather than just over £100 million as at present.
While this is a substantial increase in resources, the CLA claims it is still small in relation to Government spending in other policy areas.
Mr MacNichols views are similar to those of former CLA president Ewen Cameron, head of the governments Countryside Agency which was launched earlier this month.
Mr Cameron has already called for a more sustainable and environmentally-aware approach to agriculture, saying subsidies for large farms should probably be redirected to the hills.
“Quite personally, I would like to see 30% of CAP money put into environmental schemes, but that is a personal view, of course,” he said.
Agri-environment schemes cover only 7% of the utilised agricultural area in the UK, compared with 19% in France and 37% in Germany.
Mr Cameron said the CAP should be changed, because currently only 3% of its budget is spent on funding green farming systems.