July 28, 2008

Set Aside Move in the Right Direction

THE Government should be congratulated on its moves to protect the environment on farmland, say leaders of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, (CPRE).

The charity says it welcomes the decision by Environment Secretary Hilary Benn to take forward recommendation for a replacement for the set aside scheme.

This will require farmers to put a percentage of their land into environmental management.

Ian Woodhurst, CPRE's senior farming campaigner, said; "This decision is good news for our wildlife, rivers, streams and our landscapes.

"But we need to make sure enough land is dedicated to this task.

"We suggest this should be a minimum of 5% of cropped land which is not covered by any other green farming rules."

CPRE is concerned that the proposed abolition of the set aside scheme by the European Union as part of its heath check of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) could have lead to damaging effects on the countryside, undoing years of good management through set- aside.

CPRE has lobbied hard for a new measure to provide wildlife habitat, protect water bodies from pollution and add to the diversity of the farmed landscape - but which is also easy for farmers to implement.

Mr Woodhurst added: "We urge Natural England and the Rural Payments Agency to press ahead with developing a measure that is practicable for farmers and which will mean the reformed CAP delivers more for the environment. We must trust farmers to look after the countryside."

(c) 2008 The Journal - Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.