Environment, Food and Rural Affairs CommitteeWritten evidence submitted by the Central Association of Agricultural Valuers

1. We welcome the recent of the Natural Environment White Paper (NEWP) which we see as a driver for many aspects of policy. We would however like raise some practical issues with regard to particular areas in the Paper.

2. Landscape scale” working—This concept appears several times in the Paper and is also included in the Natural England report “ThinkBIG” published to coincide with NEWP. Whilst we accept that a broader coverage of targeted environmental management may result in better outcomes, we would urge that any such “landscape scale” approach remains voluntary and accepts the extent to which land occupation and business structures alter over time, for example during the term of an Environmental Stewardship agreement. This is often not appreciated by Government in the design of policy. There must be sufficient flexibility.

3. Integrated advice—The work that has been commissioned by DEFRA on this only seems to be focussing on a restricted area of advice and is not currently addressing the various advice delivery mechanisms available and the way in which those separate areas of advice may be integrated.

3.1It would seem that there is a longer-term aspiration that the wider delivery of advice by Government and its associated delivery bodies be addressed and that Environmental Stewardship, Woodland Grant Scheme, cross compliance, etc, advice be better incorporated in an overall advice provision strategy. This will be useful provided it is is properly integrated, with suitably qualified advisers who can also appreciate the wider context in which they may be offering advice to a farmer, appreciating land occupation and business structures, taxation implications, etc., as well as providing the core advice on climate change or whatever it may be.

3.2We would emphasise the importance of making use of the qualified professional adviser in the provision of such advice and proper recognition of their professional qualification. Such advisers have had to gain the breadth of knowledge which is necessary when going out on holdings to provide advice. One area of advice segregated from all other aspects may have unknown implications which are not necessarily of benefit to the farmer. This would be a concern of the approach currently being looked at.

4. ELS becoming more targeted—Whilst we accept that there is a strong drive to better demonstrate to the taxpayer value for money, we would express concern that Entry Level Stewardship (ELS) becomes too targeted. ELS was designed to be “broad and shallow” in its approach, with Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) being the targeted, competitive element of Environmental Stewardship. A balance needs to be struck between encouraging farmers to participate in ELS and therefore being realistic about what management options they can feasibly deliver on the ground and the delivery of multi-objective, environmental outcomes.

5. Woodland creation—We are not clear how the “major increase” in the area of woodland is to be achieved in a climate of decreasing availability of funding. Whilst we accept that there is an Independent Panel looking at this aspect, it would have been helpful if the Paper could have said more about how this aspiration may be met.

21 June 2011

Prepared 16th July 2012