Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by Linking Environment and Farming (LEAF) (A26)

  We are writing in response for the call for the inquiry on the future of UK agriculture: Farming beyond subsidies. Our experience at LEAF (Linking Environment and Farming) is principally based around your second area for consultation: how better stewardship of agricultural land can be promoted.

  We have 10.5 years' experience of developing and promoting Integrated Farm Management, through the development of technical management tools, including the LEAF Audit and the Handbook for Integrated Farm Management, and the setting up of Demonstration Farms throughout the UK. As an organisation we have worked through networking, collaborating and taking a practical approach as to what specific issues farmers can practically incorporate into their businesses.

  Our membership represents some 15 per cent of the cropped area in the UK and with 40 of these commercial farmers demonstrating Integrated Farm Management into practice we have shown how farmers can adopt and adapt their businesses to meet the needs of their own enterprises, the environment and those of the citizen within us all.

  Among our demonstration farmers and members we also have fresh produce growers, representing a sector that has not been supported by subsidies and has strived to address market needs. These growers add a strong message to our activities.

  We would happily highlight and clarify some of our experiences that work as a realistic approach for encouraging better stewardship of agricultural land, including case studies from our farmers.

  Please do not hesitate to get in touch with us if we can be of any help.



  "LEAF is committed to a viable agriculture which is environmentally and socially acceptable and ensures the continuity of supply of wholesome, affordable food while conserving and enhancing the fabric and wildlife of the British countryside for future generations."


  LEAF is committed to a prosperous farming industry throughout the UK, one which results in a viable rural community, a thriving countryside and feeds the consumer with safe, assured food of the highest quality and taste.

  The uptake of Integrated Farm Management (IFM) represents an economically and environmentally viable option for all types of farmers, regardless of their farm location, and their skills, knowledge and personal motivation.

  A fundamental challenge for the implementation of IFM and sustainable agriculture is that farmers cannot go it alone. Resource management that is both productive and sustainable requires all the users to work together for their common good. Such group action is a prerequisite for long-term success. It also becomes the mechanism for forging links between farmers and the wider rural community. Better information flows between all actors are components for an adaptive sustainable agriculture.


  LEAF is a charity helping farmers improve their environment and business performance and create a better public understanding of farming through a nation-wide network of demonstration farms and the development of technical management tools.

  LEAF hosts visits to these demonstration farms for both farmers and invited groups of non-farmers to raise the awareness, understanding and uptake of IFM and show how many farmers are responding to current concerns.

  LEAF supports farmers by providing them with the appropriate management tools. This includes the LEAF Audit, a detailed self-assessment, whole farm business plan of their farm. This helps them to set targets to improve their businesses while enhancing the environment. The Government uses the LEAF Audit as one of its pilot indicators of sustainability. Other technical information includes guidelines and case studies on IFM. LEAF also organises workshops, discussion forums and field days—all designed to help farmers understand the principles of IFM and how to put it into practice on their own farms.

  LEAF is a founding member of a pan-European organisation—the European Initiative for the Sustainable Development of Agriculture (EISA?), working throughout Europe to develop and promote responsible farming practices—IFM.

  LEAF is a founding member of the Integrated Arable Crop Production Alliance (IACPA) encouraging the uptake and dissemination of the research partners in the alliance.


  1.  Establishing strong networks to work together to form new ideas. LEAF has considered issues in great depth and with a wide range of organisations to agree on a consensus view.

  2.  Ensuring best technology and information transfer. Through using farmers as advocates of the principles of IFM LEAF has encouraged many farmers to consider developing their own farming systems and making change.

  3.  Seeing is believing. Through working with commercial farmers and addressing the whole suite of issues that farmers face, LEAF's approach has allowed farmers to see how different principles can fit into their own practices. LEAF has also encouraged a wide range of non-farmer groups on to the farms to find out how many farmers are making changes and seek ideas for further addressing their concerns.

  4.  Through the better attention to details demanded of the principles of IFM LEAF has shown that by: reducing risk, fine tuning your business and taking a well thought out approach profit and environmental protection and enhancement go together.

  5.  Through working with many organisations and assurance schemes setting standards for food safety, quality insurance and environmental performance. LEAF believes that it is important for farmers to regain the trust of the consumer and that the assurance schemes are part of that reassurance.

Some Facts in Brief

For the Farming Industry

  There are 40 demonstration farms to date.

  LEAF has over 2,000 farmer members representing over 15 per cent of the cropped land area—of these there are: 79 per cent with owner occupier land; 39 per cent tenanted and 97 per cent of the farmers have an arable enterprise 48 per cent field vegetables and 30 per cent livestock.

  LEAF is currently developing its activities in the livestock sector.

  LEAF together with BASIS, set up the BASIS/LEAF ICM training course over 1,115 advisers have done this course, encouraging a consistent standard in the advice given on ICM across the industry.

  LEAF has hosted visits for over 80,000 visitors during the last 10 years. Of these 50 per cent will be farmers. While not all these farmers have joined LEAF they are influenced by the enthusiasm and formalised approach the demonstration farmers are taking.

  LEAF staff and farmers have given over 1,000 farmer talks over the last 10 years. This has ranged from small local groups to European and at International conferences.

  LEAF has spoken with and met over 50,000 farmers through visits, talks and at the shows.

For the non-farmers

  A recent study showed that 25 per cent of non-farmers have heard of ICM.

  Some 40,000 invited individuals have visited LEAF Demonstration Farms. These represent groups such as the WI, Friends of the Earth, teachers, MP's, MEP's, journalists etc.

  In 2001 LEAF developed Your Virtual Farm Walk an interactive visit to a LEAF Demonstration Farm on a CD-rom, as an alternative to a visit to the real farms—but without getting your boots muddy!



  "A whole farm policy aiming to provide efficient and profitable production which is economically viable and environmentally responsible. It integrates beneficial natural processes into modern farming practices using the most appropriate technology and aims to minimise the environmental risks while conserving, enhancing and recreating that which is of environmental importance."

  At LEAF we recognise that, in order to implement a system, such as Integrated Farm Management people must be involved. And to achieve a long term, sustained change they must be informed, instructed, supported, advised, convinced and influenced, as appropriate. It is also essential to evaluate the effectiveness—people must be asked the right questions, and their answers interpreted, to provide feedback from the interested parties on policies and their implementation. At LEAF we aim to achieve all these through collaborating, networking, monitoring and benchmarking.

  It is also important to:

    —  understand the information people need to help make decisions;

    —  ensure that unbiased information is available to them; and

    —  advise and help support decision making.

  In the UK the framework for developing a sustainable system is established, but there is a need for more collaboration. In order to implement, energise and make change, vision, effective communication and an on-going research programme is essential. Many farmers are confident and proud of their efficient, safe farming systems with a strong commitment to the environment. However, it is crucial for trust to be build up among farmers, regulators and government to make the changes needed to further encourage a sustainable farming approach.


  1.  LEAF represents over 2,000 members, including farmers managing over 708,000 hectares, key companies in the food and farming sector and a number of leading environmental organisations. They all believe that Integrated Farm Management (IFM) is the best way of helping farmers maintain the competitiveness of their businesses whilst protecting and enhancing the environment in the production of safe food and fibre and countryside management.

  2.  LEAF encourages the development and promotion of IFM in the UK. LEAF works closely with farmers, advisers, consumers, environmentalists and those in the industry on practical solutions to real problems. LEAF is about action and is active in encouraging farmers to challenge their businesses and adopt a system of farming that balances the needs of consumers for safe, healthy food grown with care for the environment and with the needs of farmers for a profitable farm business.

  3.  LEAF believes that a healthy farming community goes hand in hand with a thriving countryside. Thus LEAF works to improve the efficiency of farm businesses through getting people together to exchange information and build links and partnerships. This includes the wide uptake of technical guidelines on IFM and the LEAF Audit, encouraging self-criticism and continuous improvement in business performance, crop and animal husbandry and environmental care.

  4.  LEAF is working with farmers, consumers, environmentalists and those in the food industry to build confidence throughout the industry. It is only through networking, collaboration and partnerships that change can be made. LEAF is encouraging this change through open debate, creating a better understanding of countryside matters and building confidence.

  5.  LEAF has the ability and 10 years' experience in drawing together all aspects of rural life to develop a sustainable future for farmers and the countryside.

  6.  LEAF works closely with Government throughout Europe to develop policy solutions, which increase the competitiveness of our farmers and improve our countryside.


14 December 2001

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