A new management tool will help food producers counter their critics by showing that responsible farming practices benefit the environment.
Developed by Linking Environment and Farming (LEAF), the web-based Green Box toolkit builds on selection of management tools to help farmers record information about wildlife and the environment on their farm.
It has been launched just weeks before the start of the Campaign for the Farmed Environment – the industry backed initiative encouraging English producers to farm responsibly rather than face a compulsory setaside replacement.
The Green Box website includes the latest advisory publications and resources, guidance on making observations and a data collection service enabling farmers to monitor and understand the effect of farming practices on wildlife.
DEFRA secretary Hilary Benn unveiled the toolkit in London on Thursday (8 October). It would help farmers show the impact of agricultural practices on the environment, he said.
“Understanding this relationship is vital for the protection of our ecosystems and the sustainability of food production,” said Mr Benn. Sustainable food production would contribute to both economic and environmental prosperity.
Backed by farm leaders and wildlife organisations, the Green Box toolkit was developed in consultation with farmers such as Rob Kynaston, who farms a 98ha (242-acre) dairy farm in Shropshire.
“We have been implementing Integrated Farm Management (IFM) for some years now, but the Green Box will show me and my visitors the real difference IFM is having to our environment and wildlife.”
Caroline Drummond, LEAF chief executive, said farms made a huge contribution to maintaining the landscape diversity, the health of soils and water and countryside biodiversity – as well as producing food.
“The information farmers collect from using the Green Box, will help us develop a clearer picture of what farms in the UK already have, develop priorities and quantify changes,” she added.
The Campaign for the Farmed Environment, which will promote voluntary management measures that recapture the benefits of set-aside from small areas of farmland, will be launched next month.