Landowners slam cross-compliance

25 April 2000

Landowners slam cross-compliance

By Isabel Davies

LANDOWNERS have slammed a government report which says farmers should meet stricter environmental conditions to qualify for support payments.

The report, commissioned by the Department of the Environment, concludes that new cross-compliance conditions should be considered in the UK.

The most radical of the papers suggestions is a recommendation that 6m field margins should be placed around all arable fields eligible for area payments.

But a spokeswoman from the Country Landowners Association said further regulation was unacceptable, as it would add to the burden on farmers.

“We do not consider that it is sensible, suitable or practicable to create a relationship between farming subsidies and the management of the environment.

“It is quite one thing to legislate for what people cant do, but quite another to say what people must do,” she added.

At the moment only limited cross-compliance controls are in place.

Rules in the livestock schemes currently discourage overgrazing. Arable Area Payments Scheme (AAPS) guidelines encourage environmental management on set-aside.

But the report, produced by the Institute for European Environmental Policy, argues further options would deliver environmental benefits and still be feasible.

It identifies over 30 possibilities but suggests that priority is given to the following four key areas over the coming year:

  • Reinforcing existing environmental regulations;
  • Making it a general duty to observe Codes of Practice;
  • Introducing a requirement to draw up an environmental farm plan; and
  • Requirement to put field margins around all AAPS-eligible land.

Despite objections from farmers, who claim extra conditions will add to costs, the government faces considerable pressure to accept cross-compliance.

Ministers must make a decision because the government has pledged to take appropriate action to ensure “environmental protection requirements”.

Jonathan Curtoys, agricultural policy officer for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, agreed that farmers had to be more aware of Codes of Practice.

But he added: “Many farmers have been doing good things and we wouldnt want those to be punished.”

An NFU spokeswoman said the union was seeking an early meeting with the Ministry of Agriculture and Department of the Environment.

She stressed that a careful balance was needed between achieving tangible environmental benefits and imposing unrecoverable costs.

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