A plea for more farmers to become involved in a national environment scheme, so as to add weight to EU negotiations, has been made by an industry leader.
Adam Quinney, vice-chairman of the National Farmers' Union (NFU), said greater farmer support of the Campaign for the Farmed Environment was essential for successful negotiations of the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
Proposals for the new-look CAP, scheduled to be introduced in 2014, include an enhanced "greening" element, stepping up environmental considerations for all EU member states, many of which do not have the UK's existing environment schemes. There is industry-wide concern that new CAP rules may impinge on the existing British schemes.
"We need as many farmers as possible to take up the challenge and demonstrate that we can be trusted," said Mr Quinney, speaking at the opening of Cereals 2012, the nation's major arable show, being held in Lincolnshire. "This is essential if we are to provide the crucial evidence needed to negotiate successfully on CAP reform."
Founded two-and-a-half years ago as a voluntary scheme, the Campaign for the Farmed Environment has started on a period of transition during the remainder of 2012. It has received additional Government funding to continue promoting environmentally responsible farming, before a new approach is launched in early 2013.
Mr Quinney said: "This is an exciting opportunity for industry-led activities to lead the way on addressing the environmental challenge. In the NFU we believe that farming delivers not just high-quality food but also a high-quality environment. Through initiatives, farmers should receive fewer, more consistent messages about good environmental management, as well as responsible fertiliser and pesticide use. It's a win-win situation for all."
He said the Campaign for the Farmed Environment had brought together conservation groups, advisers and the Government to improve communications, so that farmers understood what was important to their locally farmed environment.
The campaign was founded to replace the environmental element of the former set-aside scheme, which was originally introduced to limit production and prevent surpluses, but which had the spin-off effect of enhancing natural habitats.
Campaign partners are the NFU, the Country Land and Business Association, the Agricultural Industries Confederation, the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, Linking Environment and Farming, Defra, Natural England, the Environment Agency, the RSPB, the Association of Independent Crop Consultants and the Central Association of Agricultural Valuers.