CFE 10 years on – continuing to promote good environmental management through productive farming practice
10 years after the inception of Campaign for the Farmed Environment, a partnership approach to supporting sustainable farming is more important than ever. For this reason, CFE has relaunched as Championing the Farmed Environment to renew the agricultural industry’s commitment to promoting good environmental management through productive farming practice.
We cannot deny that times are changing. There is a great deal of uncertainty within both agricultural and environmental spheres and the political climate of Brexit poses both challenges and opportunities. What is certain is that change is coming, and we need to support farmers in adapting to a world in which they are required to deliver public goods such as biodiversity, clean air and water and soil health, as well as feeding the nation.
Farmers have been delivering public goods for years and one reason we have incorporated ‘championing’ into CFE’s new name is to highlight the need to celebrate the great work which is already done. However, we must also accept that the increased pressures laid on the environment mean more is needed to combat biodiversity loss, climate change and pollution in our countryside.
Farmers, as stewards of around 70% of the English countryside, are in a privileged position to manage the land which can be used to address these issues. They are also in a difficult position for exactly this reason, as they must also manage the land to produce the food which we all eat, in a way that is both environmental and economically sustainable. We must not forget that most farms are businesses and to stay in business the cost of producing that food can’t be more than the price they are paid for it. A farmer whose business goes under cannot produce either food or public goods.
This is where CFE, a partnership of agricultural and environmental organisation, offers guidance and support to help farmers do both. We bring together the expertise of our partners and stakeholders to provide and signpost advice on how farmers can incorporate good environmental measures in their everyday farm management. In many cases the benefits of these actions equal or outweigh their costs, for example through the pollinator services provided by wild insects and the cost-savings available through maximising efficiency in the use of fertiliser and plant protection products (PPPs).
We do this through online guidance and planning tools, as well as farmer and advisor training events delivered through our network of regional coordinators. We also work to raise awareness of sustainable farming issues within the farming and wider agricultural community and contribute to similar initiatives, building a network of organisations all working for the same important goals.
As part of the relaunch we have a new website, on which you can find guidance under our four key focus area; soils, water, air and wildlife.
Although we don’t provide specific advice on the agri-environment schemes - through which the government offers payment to farmers for environmental management - we don’t set ourselves up as an alternative either; it’s not an either-or situation. Agri-environment schemes can be a great way for farmers to receive compensation for environmental management which costs them money, either through loss of income or costs incurred, and we would always encourage farmers to consider these options.
The difference of CFE is that we focus on the win-win opportunities which allow farmland to deliver on an environmental and economic basis. Environmental management under CFE also puts farmers in a good position to consider later entry into agri-environment schemes, such as the new ELMS scheme, as farmers can preserve and enhance the environmental value of their land alongside their productive business.
The next few years will present a number of challenges for farmers as subsidy under the current Basic Payment Scheme is phased out and greater focus is given to the need for public good delivered by agriculture. It is likely that the way that the public (i.e. government) will pay for these goods will change, and we may also see changes in the markets for farmers’ consumable goods. Within this context the important of sustainable agriculture will continue, and CFE will continue to champion farmers to deliver environmental management through their productive farming businesses.