FARMING MATTERS: Farmers who care for the countryside

Farmers not only produce food to feed us, but spend a lot of time protecting and enhancing the environment and wildlife.

And although there are some financial incentives available for this work, a lot of it is done at the farmers’ own expense.

A recent survey by the Campaign for the Farmed Environment (CFC) asked 500 farmers about the work they do for the environment and found that although their work provides significant improvements, many farmers are unrewarded for their work.

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The survey looked at measures which are implemented to help protect water quality, soil health and farm wildlife.

Ninety per cent of farmers who took part in the survey had improved their soil management; 81 per cent had increased their efficiency in using pesticide and fertilisers; and 73 per cent had adopted nutrient management planning.

The survey revealed just how much work is currently undertaken without any payment from the current stewardship schemes.

For every farmer receiving an agri-environment payment for sowing a pollen and nectar mix, another farmer is doing the same voluntarily.

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About twice as many arable farmers are providing supplementary feeding for birds and about four times as many are sowing catch and cover crops at their own expense outside any scheme.

Farming minister George Eustice said: “As we leave the EU we have an unprecedented opportunity to deliver a farming policy which rewards farmers for delivering public goods, including sustainable food production and protecting the environment.”

One farmer who took part in the survey said: “What motivates me is to lead by example and show people that the countryside is not something that just happens.

“Landowners and farmers do far more than the majority realise year by year, generation by generation. I always say that every view, every hedge and wall is created over many years. Never take it for granted.”

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