Select Committee on Agriculture Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


APPENDIX 9

Memorandum submitted by the RSPB (F 12)

SUMMARY AND RECOMMENDATIONS

  The RSPB welcomes the opportunity to submit evidence to the House of Commons Agriculture Committee inquiry into "Organic Farming in the UK". We believe organic farming produces environmental benefits and therefore support its expansion, although recognise that its expansion will inevitably be limited. The expansion of organic farming would act as a counter measure to the on-going trend of increased intensification and specialisation of farming, which has had such a devastating effect on our countryside wildlife.

  The Committee is seeking comments on a number of issues outside of the Society's remit and expertise; however, we provide comments where appropriate. Our primary interest in organic farming is the benefits for farmland birds and other wildlife. This is not a topic the Committee has specifically listed within the remit of this inquiry; however we feel it is, for reasons that we explain, an important dimension to the debate. We offer comments on the expansion of organic farming; the role of organic certification organisations; the setting of organic standards; the role of farm assurance schemes; the availability and suitability of public assistance for organic conversion; and the likely future developments in these areas.

  Our recommendations to the Committee are as follows:

    —  The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF) in England, the Northern Ireland Assembly and the National Assembly of Wales should set a target of 30 per cent of farmland, and in Scotland the Scottish Executive should set a target of 20 per cent of farmland, to be farmed organically by 2010 and introduce measures which would enable this target to be met (Paragraph 3.3).

    —  Achieving these targets for organic farming must not affect funding available for other agri-environment schemes such as Environmentally Sensitive Areas, the Rural Stewardship Scheme (Scotland), the Countryside Stewardship Scheme (England), Tir Gofal (Wales) and the Countryside Management Scheme (Northern Ireland) (Paragraph 3.3).

    —  In order to support further growth in funding for agri-environment schemes (including organic farming) under the auspices of the new Rural Development Regulation, the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF) in England, the Northern Ireland Assembly, the National Assembly of Wales and the Scottish Executive should set a target of 20 per cent modulation by 2005 (Paragraph 11.2).

    —  The Scottish Executive should introduce modulation now, and offer farmers in Scotland significantly greater opportunities to farm in wildlife-friendly ways (Paragraph 11.2)

    —  The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF) in England, the Northern Ireland Assembly and the National Assembly of Wales should set a target of 20 per cent by volume of food consumed is certified as organic by 2010, and introduce measures which would enable this target to be met (Paragraph 3.3).

    —  The UK Government should restructure the charging regime for Meat Hygiene Service inspections to a fair and equitable system that does not threaten the future of smaller, craft abattoirs (Paragraph 6.4).

    —  All UK (and EU) accreditation bodies should adopt, apply and police rigorous conservation standards within their organic farming standards (Paragraph 7.2).

    —  UK agriculture departments, the farming industry and conservation bodies should work together to identify those environmentally beneficial practices within organic farming systems which could be applied more widely to conventional farming systems as a matter of good farming practice (Paragraph 8.1).

    —  The Agriculture Committee should consider conducting an inquiry into Farm Assurance Schemes and those operated by the multiple retailers, to evaluate any environmental claims being made and the implication of these schemes for international suppliers (Paragraph 9.2).

    —  All farmers should have equal access to support for converting to organic farming (Paragraph 10.1).

    —  The agriculture departments should undertake research to examine the biodiversity effects of organic upland farming systems (Paragraph 10.3).

    —  The agriculture departments should undertake research to determine the environmental benefits and any dis-benefits of organic farming systems and define those practices which could be isolated and applied to conventional farming systems (Paragraph 10.4).

    —  The agriculture departments should undertake research into a comparative investigation of biodiversity benefits on organic blocks of different sizes (Paragraph 10.5).

    —  MAFF should support environmentally friendly farming (including organic) and simplification of regulations and schemes for farmers by integrating organic stewardship into other land stewardship schemes. Other agriculture departments should follow suit (Paragraph 10.10).

    —  UK agriculture departments should utilise the support for training under the terms of the Rural Development Regulation to introduce and promote training courses for farmers wishing to convert to organic farming (Paragraph 10.13).

    —  UK agriculture departments and their advisory agencies should develop training courses for organic farming and conservation advisers to facilitate understanding of organic farming systems and nature conservation (Paragraph 10.13).

1.  INTRODUCTION

  1.1  The RSPB welcomes the opportunity to submit evidence to the House of Commons Agriculture Committee inquiry into "Organic Farming in the UK".

  1.2  The RSPB works for the conservation of wild birds and their environment. We are Europe's largest wildlife conservation charity with over one million members and rely almost entirely on the support of our membership to finance conservation work. We manage one of the largest conservation estates in the UK with over 150 nature reserves totalling more than 100,000 hectares.

  1.3  The Society is also a farmer in its own right. Cattle and sheep grazing is an important feature of the management regime on many of our reserves. We graze some 5,200 beef cattle, 4,500 sheep and a smaller number of dairy followers on 22,000 hectares, or about 20 per cent of our total land holding. We also own 400 cattle at our Loch Gruinart reserve on Islay and 400 Blackface sheep at Geltsdale in Cumbria. In April 2000 we took possession of a 180 hectare arable farm in Cambridgeshire, where we intend to investigate ways—both organic and non-organic—of integrating wildlife requirements into farming practices.

  1.4  We have begun the process of converting a number of our farmed reserves to meet organic standards. Considerable progress has been made at two large reserves, Geltsdale (569 ha) and Lake Vyrnwy in Powys (4,500) ha; also Ynys Hir (60 ha) and parts of some reserves (228 ha) that are used by organic graziers. This area totals some 5,400 ha, five per cent of the RSPB's total land holdings and 24 per cent of our grazed area. Once converted, Lake Vyrnwy alone will annually produce 1,800 finished organic lambs and 30 organic calves; Geltsdale around 300 finished organic lambs.

2.  FARMLAND BIRD DECLINES

  2.1  Over the past 30 years, populations of common farmland birds have declined dramatically, with eight species declining by more than 50 per cent (see Table 1). There is growing evidence and acceptance that these declines have been driven by agricultural intensification, for example increases in the use of pesticides and chemical fertilisers, removal of hedgerows and changes in the timing and methods of cultivation. Farmers have also specialised, reducing the diversity of the agricultural products they produce. The visible results of this are a dominance of arable farming in the east and pasture systems in the west and an overall reduction in mixed farming, with a decline in the diversity of habitat as a result.

  2.2  The loss of birds is not just a conservation problem. Birds are good indicators of the health of the environment as a whole, and among the most visible and audible. The rapid declines in farmland birds should be a cause for concern for everyone. The Government has adopted the status of bird populations as an official "Quality of Life" indicator (for England, Wales and Northern Ireland); all of the species listed below are also included in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan through which the Government is committed to "conserve and enhance biological diversity".

Table 1

DECLINING BIRD POPULATIONS ON UK FARMLAND, 1972-96 (BTO/JNCC, 1997)

Tree sparrow
-76%
Spotted flycatcher
-78%
Grey partridge
-78%
Corn bunting
-74%
Turtle dove
-85%
Skylark
-75%
Song thrush
-66%
Bullfinch
-62%

3.  CAN ORGANIC FARMING SOLVE THE PROBLEM?

  3.1  The serious declines in farmland birds and other wildlife associated with farmland must be halted. Mechanisms are needed to protect vulnerable systems of farming which, by their nature, support important biodiversity, and to provide a counter to the incentives to intensify output and specialise production. The RSPB believes these mechanisms must:

    —  stem the declines of species and habitats of conservation concern and prevent further loss;

    —  maintain and, where apropriate, enhance the populations of such species and enhance habitat quality and quantity;

    —  encourage sensitive farming, extensification and diversification.

  3.2  Organic farming is often singled out as an example of a more tried and tested sustainable farming system. While not qualified to comment on the food quality aspects of organic produce, the RSPB believes there is sufficient evidence to show that organic farming can deliver environmental benefits for birds and other wildlife. The area of land farmed organically in the UK—420,000 ha, or 2.3 per cent of the total land area (March 2000[1])—remains low, and 75 per cent of that is in conversion. The RSPB would like to see an expansion in organic farming as one way of improving the conservation status of farmland birds. We therefore support the target set out in the Organic Targets Bill (see Annex 1) of 30 per cent of England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and 20 per cent of Scotland in the Scottish Parliament Organic Targets Bill, to be certified or in conversion by 2010.

  3.3  The UK imports around 70 per cent of organic food sold in this country compared to Denmark which imports only 25 per cent. An increase in organic production in the UK would ensure that a greater proportion of organic sales comes from domestic produce as well as opening up export markets for UK farmers. We suggest setting a target for organic food production would contribute significantly towards reducing this production deficit.

Recommendations:

    —  The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF) in England, the Northern Ireland Assembly and the National Assembly of Wales should set a target of 30 per cent of farmland, and in Scotland the Scottish Executive should set a target of 20 per cent of farmland, to be farmed organically by 2010 and introduce measures which would enable this target to be met.

    —  Achieving these targets for organic farming must not affect funding available for other agri-environment schemes such as Environmentally Sensitive Areas, the Rural Stewardship Scheme (Scotland), the Countryside Stewardship Scheme (England), Tir Gofal (Wales) and the Countryside Management Scheme (Northern Ireland).

    —  the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF) in England, the Northern Ireland Assembly and the National Assembly of Wales should set a target of 20 per cent by volume of food consumed is certified as organic by 2010, and introduced measures which would enable this target to be met.

  3.4  The present mix of regulations (organic standards), the market (price premiums), organic conversion schemes and advice will all contribute to achieving such a target. Organic farming, however, cannot solve the farmland bird problem on its own. We also recognise that not all farmers will be able, or would want to convert to organic production, and it remains important that every farmer is able to take direct action through agri-environment schemes and other measures, to maintain and encourage wildlife on their farms.

4.  THE ENVIRONMENTAL BENEFITS OF ORGANIC FARMING

  4.1  The RSPB believes there is sufficient evidence to demonstrate the benefits of organic farming to birds and biodiversity and, on this basis, to seek an expansion of organic farming in the UK. Many farms which could convert to organic farming methods in future are currently farming relatively extensively. With support, it would be a natural progression for them to convert to organic farming methods. If organic farming is not supported, there is a danger that these farms may move towards more intensive systems of farming in order to remain viable.

  4.2  However, while we support organic farming, not all organic farming practices are beneficial to birds and biodiversity. A good example is found in an organic arable system, where one of the methods of controlling weeds is through mechanical weeding. This cleans a crop of weed plants and therefore removes a valuable source of food for birds and insects. Further research could help to assess the economic impacts of yield loss as a result of broad-leaved weeds in order to determine what levels of weed infestation might be tolerated in economically viable stockless organic systems (primarily found in East Anglia). The application of conservation standards also helps to reduce or remove any negative environmental impacts of organic farming practices.

  4.3  Supporting evidence:

    —  Research carried out by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) compared organic and conventional farms in lowland Britain[2]. This showed, that for most of the farmland bird species studied, population densities were consistently higher on organic than conventional farms. In particular, the research drew attention to the fact that densities of breeding skylarks were significantly greater on organic fields, suggesting that such fields offer better habitat for these birds than conventional fields.

    —  This was supported by Wilson et al (1997)[3]. It also found that hedges tended to be higher and wider, field boundaries tended to have more trees and field sizes tended to be smaller on organic farms.

    —  More recently a review of the comparative effects of organic farming on biodiversity[4] on arable farmland found that: "Organic regimes were shown to have an overall benefit for biodiversity at the farm level, both in terms of the agricultural practices adopted and in the occurrence and management of uncropped areas." Organic farming offers several features which have become rare in modern, intensive farming including: rotations incorporating grass leys and legumes, reliance on animal and green manures rather than synthetic fertilisers, and little or no use of chemical pesticides.

    —  English Nature has recently completed a comprehensive review of the available published evidence of the biodiversity benefits of organic farming. This is summarised with their evidence to this Committee, and we would direct the Committee's attention towards this. The Soil Association has also recently published a new report "The biodiversity benefits of organic farming" (May 2000).

5.  THE ADVANTAGES OF ORGANIC FARMING FOR THE RURAL ECONOMY

  5.1  As well as benefits to biodiversity, organic farming is making a significant contribution to the economy and providing jobs in rural areas. The demand for organic food is growing: sales of organic food have risen from £100 million in 1993 to £350 million in 1999 and are expected to rise to over £1 billion by 2002[5].

  5.2  Studies[6][7][8] demonstrate that organic farming supports 10-20 per cent more labour than conventional agriculture, after allowing for differences in farm structure and cropping patterns. There are currently 593,000 people engaged in UK agriculture, equivalent to approximately 430,000 FTE (full-time equivalent) jobs. Increasing the area of land farmed organically from the current 2.3 per cent to 30 per cent, as proposed by the Organic Targets Bill for England, Wales and Northern Ireland (see Annex 1), would generate net income for farmers and farm-workers totalling 12,000-24,000 FTE jobs. As well as supporting higher levels of farming employment, organic conversion tends to support higher levels of employment in on-farm processing and marketing, creating additional local jobs.

6.  CONSTRAINTS TO EXPANSION IN ORGANIC PRODUCTION

  6.1  There is evidence that growth of markets for organic produce is still being constrained by processing and distribution difficulties; that economies of scale have yet to be reached for transport, distribution and processing costs. Geographical differences in the uptake of organic farming further exacerbates this problem. It is also likely that limits in organic seed production will constrain the development of the sector.

  6.2  Processing capacity for livestock is particularly inadequate. Numbers of small abattoirs are still declining as a result of current legislation: half of the remaining 350 small abattoirs in the country expect to have ceased trading by the end of the year. At present the Meat Hygiene Service recovers the costs of veterinary inspection on a time basis. This interpretation imposes higher costs on small abattoirs than when charges are based on a throughput basis. The loss of these smaller abattoirs will fundamentally change the rural environment because:

    —  animal welfare will suffer as a result of longer journeys (and increases the costs for farmers);

    —  consumer choice will be affected as independent butchers, farm shops, farmers markets and many other speciality outlets lose the battle to survive;

    —  local countryside economies will be undermined, contradicting Government policy on farm diversification.

  6.3  Unless the current charging structure for Meat Hygiene Service inspections is changed, only the largest factory abattoirs will survive and they are tailored to the needs of supermarkets and mass caterers. They are less able to meet the needs of smaller, specialist producers and retail outlets.

  6.4  It is essential that smaller abattoirs are treated fairly. Charging on a per head basis is fair and equitable and would both preserve smaller abattoirs and protect the countryside. It is the system adopted by every other EU country. Since it is entirely within the remit of the British government how these charges are levied, the present system should be changed.

Recommendation

    —  the UK Government should restructure the charging regime for Meat Hygiene Service inspections to a fair and equitable system that does not threaten the future of smaller, craft abattoirs.

    7.  THE ROLE OF ORGANIC CERTIFICATION ORGANISATIONS

      7.1  The RSPB has been working with the Soil Association to help develop and improve their conservation standards, which we believe will lead to more environmental benefits from organic farming systems. A new set of conservation standards is due to be published by the SA at the end of 2000.

      7.2  Organic farming standards need to be high to maintain the intrinsic environmental benefits of organic farming (standards are also essential to retain consumer confidence). We would suggest that this is best achieved by all the UK accreditation bodies adopting, applying and policing rigorous conservation standards within their organic farming standards. With the predicted continued growth in organic farming, we also have concerns that organic farming will become increasingly intensive. Without conservation standards, the environmental benefits of organic farming systems may be threatened, along with its environmentally friendly image.

    Recommendation

      —  all UK (and EU) accreditation bodies should adopt, apply and police rigorous conservation standards within their organic farming standards.

    8.  THE SETTING OF ORGANIC STANDARDS

      8.1  We welcome the organic farming standards because of the positive example they set to the farming industry in general. No other system of farming in the UK has such a clear and consistent set of operating procedures or is as environmentally stringent as organic farming. We suggest there are many lessons which the conventional farming industry could learn from the organic sector and apply to conventional farming systems. At the very least, we believe all farming systems in receipt of public subsidy should have to adhere to a set of basic environmental conditions which secure the protection of our soil, air, water and biodiversity resources.

    Recommendation

      —  UK agriculture departments, the farming industry and conservation bodies should work together to identify those environmentally beneficial practices within organic farming systems which could be applied more widely to conventional farming systems as a matter of good farming practice.

    9.  THE ROLE OF FARM ASSURANCE SCHEMES

      9.1  The RSPB participated in a Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR) sponsored evaluation of the environmental conditions of the agri-industry's farm assurance schemes (FAS) in 1999[9]. The review concluded that the FAS studied primarily addressed environmental conditions in relation to compliance with the environmental protection legislation detailed in the Codes of Good Agricultural Practice and Green Pesticides Code. They did not generally feature compliance with current wildlife and countryside legislation, even though farmers are required to comply with these, or any other initiatives to promote biodiversity conservation on-farm such as a farm conservation plan or participation in an agri-environment scheme. The National Farmers Union is now promoting the FAS, through the development of a British Farm Standard logo. Endorsed by the Government and the eight major retailers, the logo claims to guarantee that food labelled with it has been produced to the highest standards in terms of the environment, animal welfare and safety. It is clear that from a biodiversity point of view the highest standards have not been adopted.

      

      9.2  The authors concluded that FAS do offer the potential for verifying compliance with existing legislation and also have potential for delivering environmental benefits beyond basic legislative threshold. The organic market is proof that the market will reward higher environmental benefits. Like organic farming systems, FAS are independently verified and they could deliver further environmental benefits if for example they included compulsory conservation standards like the Soil Association organic certification scheme. However, such additional benefits depend on the consumer/supply chain being able to recognise that these benefits are being delivered, and then being prepared to pay extra to them.

    Recommendation

      —  The Agriculture Committee should consider conducting an inquiry into Farm Assurance Schemes and those operated by the multiple retailers, to evaluate any environmental claims being made and the implications of these schemes for international suppliers.

    10.  THE AVAILABILITY AND SUITABILITY OF PUBLIC ASSISTANCE FOR ORGANIC CONVERSION

      10.1  We welcome the practical support the UK Government has given so far to organic farming including: funds for research and development, incentives for conversion through organic conversion schemes and funding for advice. We believe the combination of incentives, advice and market premiums for organic produce are the key factors which influence a farmer's decision to convert or not. However, farmers in Scotland only have access to a free telephone advice line, compared to a free farm visit in England. All farmers across the UK should have equal access to support.

    Recommendation

      —  All farmers should have equal access to support for converting to organic farming.

    Research and Development

      10.2  MAFF currently spends over £125 million per annum on agricultural research and development, of which £1.5 million will be spent on organic farming in 2000-01. We believe the R&D budget for organic should continue to grow in line with the expansion in conversion to organic farming methods. In particular, further work is needed to understand which components of organic farming deliver the greatest environmental benefits; and to look at ways in which the biodiversity benefits of organic farming could be improved and determine any dis-benefits of current practices. We have submitted some of our suggestions for organic research to MAFF, in our response to their consultation on the Organic Farming Scheme earlier this year.

      10.3  The environmental implications of organic upland systems are largely unknown, yet almost 45 per cent of organically managed land (including in conversion) in the UK is classed as hill or rough grazing. In Scotland this figure is as high as 70 per cent[10].

    Recommendation

      —  The agriculture departments should undertake research to examine the biodiversity effects of organic upland farming systems.

      10.4  R&D should also look not just at the organic system itself, but also aim to define those beneficial elements or practices within organic farming which could be isolated and applied to conventional farming systems as well.

    Recommendation

      —  The agriculture departments should undertake research to determine the environmental benefits and dis-benefits of organic farming systems and define those practices which could be isolated and applied to conventional farming systems.

      10.5  Finally, the potential environmental/biodiversity benefits may have previously under-estimated because organic farms were small and isolated in a sea of intensive agriculture. Larger benefits may become detectable when larger blocks of land are managed organically.

    Recommendation

      —  The agriculture departments should undertake research into a comparative investigation of biodiversity benefits on organic blocks of different sizes.

    Incentives for conversion

      10.6  The RSPB believes that there is a need to support organic farmers after the conversion period. This is in line with the current Government policy of supporting farmers to carry out environmentally beneficial management on their farms, usually under an agri-environment scheme.

      10.7  Agri-environment schemes have evolved from the special site protection measures into more widespread support for environmentally friendly farming, and this trend is likely to continue, for example, as under the expanded Countryside Stewardship Scheme in England. At the same time, there is a Government initiative to reduce red tape and simplify regulations and schemes for farmers.

      10.8  There is a need for an agri-environment approach, which brings all of these actions into a menu which farmers—organic and conventional—can choose from (Figure 2). The aim would be to recognise those farmers who farm in such ways that they benefit wildlife. More targeted, special agri-environment measures are still needed, for example for habitat recreation, Sites of Special Scientific Interest and so on. We believe that the review of English agri-environment schemes, due in 2001, offers an opportunity to consolidate these trends and incorporate support for organic farmers. It could also act as a model for the other UK countries.

Figure 2. A structure of support measures for agriculture


  10.9  The RSPB sees a new structure for agri-environment payments, with increasing payments for increasingly demanding environmental management:

    —  Tier One would be basic good farming practice, including adherence to the Codes of Good Agricultural Practice and other standards, and would receive no payment other than agricultural subsidies.

    —  Tier Two would be low-level payments for "greener" farming systems, such as minimum percentages of land under arable/grass/woodland (encouraging mixed farming); conservation headlands; wildlife seed mixtures; winter stubbles and fallows; pesticide restrictions; field margin improvements and beetle banks.

    —  Tier Three would incorporate more demanding options such as habitat recreation (the original vision for Countryside Stewardship).

    —  Tier Four would provide targeted tailored management for special sites. Organic farming maintenance payments would fit naturally into Tier Two.

  10.10  Tier Two would contain a menu of options which farmers could combine within a compulsory whole farm plan. Options would be allocated points to weight them according to ease and cost of implementation. Farmers would receive a single payment for a plan comprising options which reach an agreed total of points. It is envisaged that many organic farmers would—as a result of following organic farming standards—be eligible automatically for Tier Two payments. They could be required to submit a whole farm plan to verify that they are eligible for such payments.

Recommendation

    —  MAFF should support environmentally friendly farming (including organic) and simplification of regulations and schemes for farmers by integrating organic stewardship into other land stewardship schemes. Other agriculture departments should follow suit.

    Advice and Training

      10.10  We understand from many organic farmers that a lack of skills and know-how are a significant constraint to conversion. MAFF has established the Organic Conversion Information Service (there are similar services in Wales and Northern Ireland) to give advice to farmers and take up of this service has far exceeded expectations, although Scottish farmers and crofters receive less support. Sufficient funding must be made available to ensure the service can cope with present and future demand and to ensure high standards of advice provision are maintained.

      10.11  We understand however that there are few training opportunities for farmers wishing to convert to organic farming methods. MAFF is currently consulting on proposals for a vocational training scheme which, subject to European Commission approval, will be delivered under the England Rural Development Plan. The ERDP has been developed under the terms of the EU Rural Development Regulation (1257/99). The consultation document states that "priority will be given to vocational training that assists with the modernisation and improvement of agricultural and forestry holdings... this will contribute to a well-founded diversification of the rural economy and will promote the adoption of sustainable and environmentally sensitive practices through the development of new skills".

      10.12  We welcome MAFF's support for training, and suggest that organic farmers are well-placed to deliver this objective. A number of high priorities for training have been identified, including "Farm management skills", "Business and marketing skills" and "Countryside and environmental skills". Organic farmers would benefit from training in all of these areas.

      10.13  Training is also needed for both organic farming and conservation advisers. For example, advisers giving advice to farmers about converting to organic farming methods would benefit from having been trained in basic farmland ecology and wildlife conservation. Equally, conservation advisers giving advice to farmers would benefit from having been trained in the principles and practices of organic farming.

    Recommendations

      —  UK agriculture departments should utilise the support for training under the terms of the Rural Development Regulation to introduce and promote training courses for farmers wishing to convert to organic farming;

    —  UK agriculture departments and their advisory agencies should develop training courses for organic farming and conservation advisers to facilitate understanding of organic farming systems and nature conservation.

11.  LIKELY FUTURE DEVELOPMENTS

  11.1  The new Rural Development Regulation (RDR) represents a step in the right direction towards public policies which recognise and support the economic, social and environmental role of agriculture. We believe significantly more of the CAP budget should be devoted to this regulation to benefit farmers, rural communities and the environment and in order for it to truly become the "second pillar" of the CAP.

  11.2  Agri-environment schemes (which includes support for organic conversion) are currently the only CAP measures which support farmers for their role in delivering environmental benefits. The introduction of modulation in England, Wales and Northern Ireland—a flat rate of 2.5 per cent rising to 4.5 per cent by 2006—will mean for example that the budget for English agri-environment schemes (including organic conversion) will double. While this rate will deliver significant amounts of money to address the on-going crisis in the countryside, it is unlikely to be enough to bring about changes on the scale that is needed. In Scotland, not only has modulation yet to be introduced, funding for agri-environment schemes is already significantly lower than the other UK countries. Further modulation ie up to 20 per cent of the CAP budget would release significant funds for the RDR, and agri-environment schemes in particular.

Recommendations

    —  The Scottish Executive should introduce modulation now, and offer farmers in Scotland significantly greater opportunities to farm in wildlife-friendly ways;

    —  In order to support further growth in funding for agri-environment schemes (including organic farming) under auspices of the new Rural Development Regulation, the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF) in England, the Northern Ireland Assembly, the National Assembly of Wales and the Scottish Executive should set a target of 20 per cent modulation by 2005.

9 June 2000


1   Personal communication with Soil Association. Back

2   Chamberlain D E, Wilson J D & Fuller R J (1999) A comparison of bird populations on organic and conventional farm systems in southern Britain. Biological Conservation 88 (1999) 307-320. Back

3   Wilson J D, Evans J, Browne S J & King J R (1997) Territory distribution and breeding success of skylarks Alaunda arvensis on organic and intensive farmland in southern England. Journal of Applied Biology 34, 1462-1478. Back

4   Gardner S M & Brown R W (1998) Review of the comparative effects of organic farming on biodiversity. Report for MAFF carried out by ADAS Wolverhampton and R&D Associates, Kirbymoorside. Back

5   Soil Association (1999) The Organic Food and Farming Report 1999. Soil Association, Bristol. Back

6   Lampkin N H & Padel S (Eds) (1994) The economics of organic farming: an international perspective. CAB International, Wallingford. Back

7   Bateman D & Midmore P (1993) Modelling the impacts of policy change in the Less Favoured Areas. Aberystwyth Rural Policy Paper No 93-01. University of Wales, Aberystwyth. Back

8   Friends of the Earth (1994) Working future? Jobs and the environment. Discussion Paper No1 FoE, London. Back

9   Baines R N, Dee T M, Manley W J & Smith G P (2000) Quality assurance schemes for food production: An evaluation of environmental conditions. A report by the Royal Agriculture College for DETR, HMSO, London Back

10   Soil Association (1999) The Organic Food and Farming Report 1999. Soil Association, Bristol. Back


 
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