This article first appeared in Farmers Weekly 4th August 2017
So Gove has spoken. Future farm subsidies will be assessed on the environmental and public benefits delivered by farmers -
We shouldn’t kid ourselves any new scheme can be completely free of rules, but it should put more power in the hands of farmers and less in the hands of the inspectors. We have to start, though, by accepting we won’t get ELS back. It was simple and inclusive, but it was a blank cheque that didn’t deliver enough for wildlife. On the other hand, new Countryside Stewardship is focused, but too complex. You’ve only got to sit with someone for an hour trying to explain it (as I have twice in the space of a few days recently) to appreciate that. Yet CS has within it the germ of a way forward -
I know plenty of good farmer-
Farmers need to put themselves in the best position to join in a new scheme. First, build your own evidence base. In or out of a scheme, what are you doing for your environment? Buffering watercourses, got a good population of yellowhammer? Take pictures, note numbers and dates. Then, get help from the experts. People from the bodies that sound most anti farmer at top level can be the most brilliant on the ground when you need it, but it can be anyone who has the know-
Stewardship must be 'simple, flexible and local'