Green farming schemes under threat in spending review

by Search Gate staff. Published Sun 01 Dec 2013 17:13
Government urged to protect spending on green farming

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) is calling on the Government to allocate £3.8 billion of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) funding to rural development measures, and in particular ‘green farming’ schemes.

The countryside campaign group says the area of farmland under ‘green farming’ schemes is likely to fall from 70% to 40% without adequate investment.

And after the public consultation on the future of CAP reforms closed last week, the CPRE says the total UK budget for rural development measures, which currently provides public funds to help farmers operate green farming schemes, as well as funds for food production, has been slashed by 5% in real terms until 2020.

The decision on how much of the CAP budget should be spent on green farming schemes, and how to make CAP deliver more for the environment, now rests with Ministers.

CPRE is calling for 15% of England’s £15 billion CAP budget to 2020, the maximum amount permitted, to be redirected to payments for schemes that pay farmers for environmental management such as hedgerow replanting, restoring traditional farm buildings, and other rural development measures such as supporting local food producers.

Graeme Willis, Senior Rural Policy Campaigner at the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said: “It’s unfortunate that the overall funding has been cut but transferring the full 15% of our CAP budget to pay for green farming and rural development schemes is vital if we want to maintain our precious countryside. And it makes sense for the wider rural economy; in many places tourism, which depends on our beautiful landscapes, is just as important as farming.

“The new budget already means just 40% of farmland, down from 70%, will be covered by green farming scheme options to manage wildlife habitats and landscape features that maintain the character of the countryside.

“The Government should put as much money as possible into looking after our countryside, its landscapes and wildlife. The CAP is funded by billions of pounds of public money so it is only right that it delivers public benefit.”

As Government starts to analyse the responses to its consultation, CPRE said it would like ministers to:

• Transfer the maximum budget possible from Pillar 1, that pays farmers money based on the area of land they farm to Pillar 2, the pot of money that pays farmers to maintain the landscape and wildlife

• Make protecting and enhancing the character of our landscapes and the features within them a key priority for the new green farming scheme

• Implement ‘greening’ measures’ in Pillar 1 in a way that provides real environmental benefits

If the Government fails to make these three key decisions CPRE believes CAP reform will have taken a step backwards and the Government will have let down the wider countryside and its wildlife.

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