NFU launches campaign to meet government biodiversity targets

Every grower in the country is being urged to record every scrap of land that can be used to improve bio-diversity and head off the threat of compulsory set-aside.

The NFU launched the Campaign for the Farmed Environment for horticulture and potato growers last week to help meet national targets by 2012.

Chair of the board for horticulture and potatoes Sarah Pettitt said: "I want all growers to record activities like building ditches or planting hedges and field margins. A little effort or a lot more red tape sums up our position.

"If we do not achieve set targets our industry faces increased regulation, likely to include compulsory set-aside measures. But this campaign isn't just a defence strategy, it's an opportunity to demonstrate and record our contribution to protecting and enhancing wildlife, biodiversity and the environment."

Targets agreed with the Government for the voluntary initiative include identifying and retaining 179,000ha of uncropped land and improving management of at least one-third of that. Growers and farmers should increase voluntary activity across 30,000ha.

Pettitt stressed the need to record activity: "We are not good at this because as growers we want to be out there doing the job rather than sitting in an office creating the paperwork, which is a cross to bear.

"However, the work we do to enhance the environment must be captured if we are to quantify and communicate to the wider public that we are, in fact, doing what's asked of us and satisfy concerns people may have with horticulture and potato production."

Campaign for the Farmed Environment launched nine months ago to broadacre farmers, but last week's splash was targeted at more focused field production and was agreed as a voluntary measure by the previous Government as an "option B" to law.

The launch took place at JE Piccaver & Co, in Spalding, Lincolnshire, a "beacon farm" for the campaign. The salad-crop grower blends beetle banks, ditches, bird-seed mixes and woodland into 910ha of intensively farmed land.

Production director Phillip Hubbert said: "David Piccaver has embraced environmental opportunities for decades for two reasons: to continue enhancing the estate for future family generations; and to show customers what we do is sustainable and not raping the countryside."

NFU technical director Jim Egan said: "Our way lets people improve biodiversity efficiently and effectively alongside production."

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