Campaign to Protect Rural England Standing up for your countryside

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CPRE expressed disappointment at today’s announcement by Defra on how much money rural development measures, including green farming schemes, will receive. The Government has decided to limit to 12% the amount of money that will be transferred from payments to farmers for schemes that help wildlife and improve the quality of the countryside.

CPRE had called on the Government to transfer the maximum 15% from farming payments, to maximise the value for money to the public and to give wildlife habitats and landscape features the support they need. However, CPRE is pleased that Defra has recognised concerns that the new green farming scheme needs to make maintaining landscape character a higher priority.

Ian Woodhurst, Senior Farming Campaigner said: ‘CPRE is disappointed that the Government has failed to give the countryside and the public what they deserve by not giving green farming schemes the funding boost they needed. We have serious concerns that the new green farming scheme will be severely limited in its scope; particularly when it comes to improving the quality of our much loved landscapes that are so vital to the rural economy.’


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Two influential charities, supported by Bill Bryson and Deborah Meaden, have come together to campaign for swift action by Government and industry to tackle the chronic failures of the UK milk market.

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) and the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) believe that for too long there has been a cycle of boom and bust resulting in lost livelihoods and economic uncertainty for dairy farmers. This has driven more and more of them out of business with damaging consequences for our landscapes, local food production, animal welfare and consumers.

Recently, many dairy farmers have had the price they receive for their milk cut by some processors with further cuts being proposed, meaning the price they receive is less than what it costs to produce their milk. As a result, it is likely even more dairy farmers will be forced to sell their cows and leave farming altogether. This could leave the UK more reliant on imports of milk produced to poorer welfare standards, undermining the vital role of dairy farmers in managing our much loved pastoral landscapes.

The two organisations are calling for:

  • Consumers to only buy milk from retailers who pay dairy farmers a fair price for their milk. Currently, ASDA, Morrisons, and the Co-Op do not have pricing mechanisms that adequately reflect the cost of milk production [1].
  • Milk processors and dairies (including Arla, Dairy Crest and Robert Wiseman Dairies) to commit to introducing a pricing mechanism that recognises the cost of production [2].
  • The Government to ensure that the Groceries Code Adjudicator has the necessary powers to investigate contracts between farmers, retailers and processors to ensure farmers are being treated fairly [3].

Bill Bryson, CPRE Vice President, says: “If you do a fair day's work you deserve fair pay for what you produce. But for too long dairy farmers have been at the mercy of opportunistic price cuts that have driven more and more of them out of business.”

WSPA supporter and Dragon’s Den investor Deborah Meaden says: “I have been shocked by the recent unrest in the UK milk market – our UK dairy supply chain is currently weighted towards a situation where supermarkets and processors hold too much of the bargaining power. A fundamental rule of business is to be able to sell your product for more than it costs to make. Farmers need to be allowed to run a truly sustainable business model, otherwise we risk losing them from the industry and with them, cows in fields and a countryside that people recognise.”


Notes to Editors:
[1] Sainsburys, Tesco’s, Waitrose and M&S have milking pricing mechanisms that reflect how much it costs to produce milk.
[2] Some retailers buy their milk direct from farmers and others from processors. It is therefore essential that milk processors also provide dairy farmers with fair contracts.
[3] Legislation is currently progressing through Parliament to create a new Groceries Code Adjudicator with the aim of increasing protection for farmers and suppliers from unfair contracts with supermarkets. It will ensure that large retailers treat them fairly by lawfully adhering to the Groceries Code. The new body is being established to enforce the Groceries Code after the Competition Commission identified competition issues in their 2008 market study. In particular it concluded that the market dominance of big supermarkets led to some suppliers being treated unfairly in the UK and overseas. If a retailer is found to have breached the Groceries Code then the Adjudicator would have wide ranging powers to effect remedies such as: issuing recommendations to solve the dispute; naming and shaming the offenders by publishing information; and imposing fines (if the Secretary of State considers that the other solutions aren’t working and grants the Adjudicator this power).

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The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) responds to the publication of the Government’s Green Food Project report.

Responding to the publication of the Government's Green Food Project [1], which has identified a number of challenges that will need to be overcome if food production is to increase, Ian Woodhurst, CPRE's Senior Farming Campaigner said:

“If we are to meet the predicted increase in the demand for food with diminishing areas of land available for production and increasing strain on natural resources, we need to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past that created higher yields by sacrificing the environment.

“As CPRE did when we developed our Vision for the Future of Farming [2], the Green Food Project has also looked at many of the key issues relating to boosting food production. CPRE would like to see these considered as part of a much wider public debate on how we want our food to be produced in the future and what impact this might have on the countryside."

"The report is correct to state that, when it comes to balancing demands for food with environmental needs, our countryside needs to have ‘the right management in the right place’. To do this we will need two things: a more strategic approach to land use and food production so we can protect farm land from development; and well funded green farming schemes that can support farmers’ environmental management to prevent market forces doing ‘the wrong thing in the wrong place’ as has happened in the past."


Notes to Editors
[1] The Green Food Project convened by Defra has been examining how we might meet the challenge of reconciling the goals of improving the environment and increasing food production in England, by bringing together government, industry and environmental partners. This was a commitment made in the Government’s Natural Environment White Paper. The report sets out the early conclusions from this project.
[2] The CPRE Vision for the future of farming:

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Commenting on an EFRA Select Committee [1] report into proposals to reform the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), so it delivers more for the environment, Ian Woodhurst, CPRE’s Senior Farming Campaigner says:

“As the Committee has discovered, there is complete confusion about how these new ‘greening’ proposals will work, and whether they will provide any real environmental improvements. Europe’s taxpayers could easily end up short changed by a greenwash that delivers limited benefits for the countryside and its wildlife.”

CPRE has called for a much more radical reform with the CAP refocused on providing much greater levels of support for environmental schemes that reward farmers for maintaining, restoring and enhancing the wildlife habitats and landscape features that makes our countryside so special. Progress on reforming the CAP is behind schedule and can’t be agreed until all member states sign off the next budget for the European Union.

Ian Woodhurst continued, “The Government still has a lot of work to do to improve these greening proposals so that the CAP delivers more for the environment. The Government will also need to negotiate a much better deal for the UK from the next European Union budget to secure the funding we need to improve the environmental quality of our farmland.

“If they fail we risk being left with a CAP that delivers less for the environment and less for UK taxpayers.”


Notes to Editors

[1] The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee conducted an inquiry into proposals to ‘green’ the Common Agricultural Policy.

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) fights for a better future for the English countryside. We work locally and nationally to protect, shape and enhance a beautiful, thriving countryside for everyone to value and enjoy. Our members are united in their love for England’s landscapes and rural communities, and stand up for the countryside, so it can continue to sustain, enchant and inspire future generations. Founded in 1926, President: Bill Bryson, Patron: Her Majesty The Queen.

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The latest Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) survey [1] on the Campaign for the Farmed Environment (CFE) [2] released today shows it continues to fall short of expectations. Crucially, it is failing to achieve one of its core purposes – retaining and increasing the area of uncropped land to maintain the environmental benefits of the now abolished set-aside scheme [3].  And the task of providing these benefits is not being met by all farmers. Following a review, the Government is due to decide on the future of the CFE later this year.

Ian Woodhurst, CPRE’s farming campaigner said, “Given these disappointing findings it’s important that the Government conducts a thorough review. We believe it’s important that farmers are clear about what’s expected of them and that they all need to contribute towards making farming practices more environmentally sustainable.”

Following the publication of the survey, the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) is calling for the review of the CFE to address three key areas of concern:

•    How the CFE can ensure all farmers help improve the environmental quality of England’s farmed environment. While many farmers are doing good things through the CFE, they continue to be let down by others who appear unwilling or reluctant to play their part.

•    A rigorous appraisal of whether the voluntary approach of the CFE has provided better value for money than a mandatory requirement for all farmers, taking into account all the costs expended by the organisations involved.

•    How the CFE will work alongside proposed reforms to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) that aim to make the CAP deliver more for the environment.

The voluntary approach of the CFE has helped government agencies, farming and wildlife organisations work more closely with farmers to introduce vital green farming measures in some areas. But CPRE remains sceptical about whether a voluntary approach will ultimately be as effective as a simple requirement for all farmers to put a small percentage of their land into environmental measures. Defra has put around £1.5m of public money into the CFE and it has to rely on Government agencies and farming and wildlife organisations to persuade farmers to pitch in, and publicly funded green farming schemes to deliver its aims. The partner organisations involved [4] have contributed enormous amounts of time, money and effort to try to make the CFE work. Yet surveys suggest a hard core of farmers are still unwilling to participate.

Ian Woodhurst concluded, “It’s likely that forthcoming reforms of the Common Agricultural Policy will introduce further environmental requirements for farmers so the CAP delivers more public benefits. The reforms provide an opportunity to introduce measures that recognise the work of those farmers who are doing their bit for the environment, and to prevent others from doing very little or nothing at all.”


Notes to Editors
[1] The survey of land managed under the Campaign for the Farmed Environment 2011/12 crop year – England was published on 10th May. It is available from:
Key results are: Table 2.2 - If you are in ELS did you join or renew in response to the campaign: Joined ELS in response to the Campaign (% of holdings): 10%; Renewed ELS agreement in response to the Campaign: 34%; Did not join/renew; 57%. Table 5.1 - Have you retained any uncropped land or left cultivatable land out of production? Yes (percentage of holdings): 37%; No: 63%. Table 5.2 - Total area of cultivatable land out of production not in agri-environment schemes: November 2009 (area in hectares) 157,355ha; Feb 2010 155,875ha; Feb 2011 130,374; Feb 2012 82,409. Table 6.1 - Have you put land into some form of unpaid environmental management by choosing at least one of the Campaign voluntary measures? Yes (percentage of holdings) 24%; No - 76%.

[2] In 2009 the Government consulted on two alternatives for retaining the environmental benefits of set-aside. One was a mandatory approach that would require all farmers to put a small percentage of their land into environmental management. The other was a voluntary approach devised by the farming industry which the Government decided to implement. The Campaign for the Farmed Environment was therefore established. The CFE’s aim is to encourage farmers to sign up to options in the Entry Level Environmental Stewardship Scheme (ELS), and implement additional voluntary actions that aim to recapture the environmental benefits associated with former set-aside land. It provides advice, support, and training to farmers and their advisers who choose to participate in the Campaign in order to facilitate the implementation of measures on their farms.

[3] Set-aside was introduced in 1988 to prevent over-production of food by taking agricultural land out of production. Set-aside land could then be managed to produce environmental benefits, for example by providing areas of feeding habitat for wildlife and by preventing water courses becoming contaminated by agricultural sprays. Areas of set-aside also added to the diversity of the landscape by creating patches of non-cultivated land. In recent years around 500,000 hectares of land has been left fallow or put into set-aside, making it England’s third largest land use. CPRE agreed that set-aside should be phased out, now that the CAP no longer requires farmers to produce particular crops to receive farming payments, but called for a mandatory measure to be introduced to prevent the loss of the environmental benefits accrued while set-aside existed.

[4] CFE partner organisations include: National Farmers Union, Country Land and Business Association, Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group, and Linking Environment and Farming, working in partnership with Defra, Natural England, the Environment Agency and the RSPB. For further details see

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