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Stay green; look after your on-farm environmental features

Retaining core on-farm environmental features, such as buffer strips and field corners, established under agri-environmental schemes is absolutely essential for farming even after the schemes end, says the Campaign for the Farmed Environment.

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Retaining core on-farm environmental features, such as buffer strips and field corners, established under agri-environmental schemes is absolutely essential for farming even after the schemes end, says the Campaign for the Farmed Environment.

Any farmer or landowner who has recently reached the end of an ELS agreement or have agreements expiring in 2016 should take pride in what they have achieved. Retaining features makes sound business sense within a farm, as well as delivering significant benefit to the industry and its green credentials, according to the NFU and CLA.

NFU Vice President Guy Smith, urges all farmers to think about the wider benefits of retaining land in environmental measures after agri-environment agreements expire;

“I know I’m not the only farmer who will soon be looking at environmental features, such as conservation field margins, on my farm if they are no longer in an agri-environment scheme.

“Although cash flow is highly important when farm-gate prices are as low as they are now, we need to think carefully about future farm conservation policy.

“Conservation strips will help pollinators as well as hitting ‘greening’ obligations. Going forward we will need the CFE more not less and all farmers need to play their part.”

CLA vice president, Tim Breitmeyer also urges farmers to retain features that they established in expiring agreements, “There is a genuine benefit to the farm business by retaining these environmental features.”

“Features, like buffer strips beside watercourses, can reduce the risk of pollution to water and the threat of regulation. Providing habitats for small mammals and insect pollinators can help improve yield and the quality of crops.”

Ploughing up long established field margins, when there is a mid-term review of the CAP on the horizon, lacks foresight. It would be a step in the wrong direction if the area farmers must have under EFAs is increased from 5% to 7%.

Buffer strips provide essential habitats for farm wildlife and are also fundamental in protecting water quality. VI Chair Richard Butler says “It make a lot of practical sense to maintain 6m grass buffer strips next to watercourses. Only a very small proportion of a field is used, but not only is water protected but habitats for wildlife are provided.”

“Think seriously before ploughing out any buffers strips adjacent to water. Grass buffers have a valuable role in helping farmers meet legal requirements for LERAPs and reducing the risk of pesticides leaving the field through run-off and accidental overspray of ditches.”

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