Why pay for environmental
23. The Environment
Agency noted that while agriculture may not be the mainstay of
the rural economy, it was still, and would remain, the Community's
major land use (p 225). Mr Merricks noted that while land
may be privately owned it was a perpetual national resource (p 27).
He argued that farming was different from any other industry in
that it (and perhaps forestry) was the only industry which could
provide environmental goods: "If I run a steelworks I should
not pollute the air or water, but those works will produce negligible
environmental benefits". (Q 62). The Local Government
Association considered that environmental payments were the sole
way of re-establishing the political validity of payments to farmers
(p 234). Environmental improvements could have economic consequences
in increasing tourism potential (Environment Agency p 225).
24. Witnesses' main
complaint was that funds were going to be insufficient to achieve
significant good (QQ 162, 206, pp 19, 47). The
Environment Agency was not alone in noting that at present environmental
policy is seen as but an optional add-on to agricultural policy
(p 226). English Nature considered that because of the limitations
of funding, current measures did little more than persuade marginal
farmers not to resort to intensive production techniques. The
Council for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) argued that
the Countryside Stewardship scheme was effectively a targeted
scheme because of insufficient funds to apply it more widely.
The CLA and Countryside Commission noted how oversubscribed such
schemes were with worthwhile projects (pp 47, 186). The Government
considered that the Countryside Stewardship scheme (budget £5,000,000)
was 60 per cent oversubscribed, and that if more funds were available
then many more applications would be made (Q 294). To encourage
Member States to apply schemes, the Countryside Commission wanted
co-financing to increase from 50:50 to 75:25 with the 75 burden
falling on the Community (p 192). This was supported by the
NFU (p 242).
25. No one denied that
there was scope for the schemes' considerable expansion, but (in
contrast to the NFU (p 237)) Professor Buckwell, of Wye College,
University of London, considered that funds could be made available
only as they were released from the commodity regimes (Q 20).
Professor von Urff, of the University of Münich, Germany,
agreed with this and pleaded that better use be made of existing
funds before increasing the budget (Q 399). The Government
were ready to contemplate transferring commodity savings to development
and the environment, but (in contrast to the Commission's analysis)
did not consider that Agenda 2000 would provide many savings,
and thus opportunity for this (Q 290).
26. The CPRE argued
that without proper monitoring, the WTO was unlikely to accept
environmental payments (Q 190) and advocated the method adopted
for Environmentally Sensitive Areas (ESAs). The RSPB considered
that a scheme ought to be acceptable to the WTO if, amongst other
things, it was properly monitored. Monitoring should be independent
and there should be targets set, not solely for uptake but for
genuine performance and results (Q 53). Professor Buckwell
and the RSPB argued that so long as payments were genuinely for
environmental services and did not form a covert subsidy then
they would be acceptable to the WTO (Q 20, p 20).
27. Witnesses called
for a much broader approach to be taken in this reform round in
relation to the rural environment. Dr Fennell considered that
a start should be made by clarifying the role of the environment
in relation to agriculture (p 39). This was supported by
the Countryside Commission (p 185) and Mr Merricks (p 27).
The Countryside Commission did not consider the current multi-annual
programmes to be the only way forward and advocated, as did others,
the concept of tiers
(pp 190, 216, 189). The RSPB noted however that where tiers were
currently applied, the more demanding tiers were not well subscribed
(p 19). The NFU acknowledged that not all society's environmental
expectations would be met through voluntary means alone (p 237).
/ environmental services
28. Subsidies should
address "market failures" (the negative environmental
consequences of international competition). This was vital to
ensure that long term environmental gain was not sacrificed to
short term profitability (p 183). The RSPB put this forcefully:
"to allow market forces to run riot across the landscape
would probably result in a considerable environmental catastrophe"
(Q 42). The concept of payment may be expressed positively
as payment for "environmental services". This is not
a new concept, but received much favourable attention from witnesses
(pp 51, 228). Nature conservation and positive environmental
benefits should be paid for as if they were crops (p 27).
Mr Merricks noted that a degree of public access was the inevitable
consequence of the receipt of public funds (Q 72, p 30).
was an environmental concept used by several groups.
The RSPB argued that if the market would not deliver the sustainable
use of resources then public funds should be used (pp 17-18).
The Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group (FWAG) argued for farmers
to receive compensation for loss of income suffered as a result
of good environmental practice (p 228). The local government
the environmental picture to be bleak if farmers did not receive
such payment (Q 166). The NFU argued that compensation had
to be adequate. The National Audit Office's 1997 report on Environmentally
Sensitive Area showed that payments were set at rates below that
necessary to compensate participating agreement holders for their
average profit forgone (p 238).
30. FWAG suggested that
the principle of no net environmental loss should be enshrined
in all elements of rural policy (p 228). Dr Fennell advocated
penalties for non-observance as opposed to payments for compliance.
She failed to understand why the principle of "the polluter
pays", applied to all other industries, could not be further
extended in agriculture (pp 38-9). The Countryside Commission
were concerned that payments should be positive: that payment
should be made for gains as opposed to compensation to prevent
poor performance. The RSPB argued that the carrot and stick should
work together and saw potential for an increased use of regulation
(Q 45). Mr Merricks sounded a cautionary note. Regulation,
he maintained, was useless unless obeyed and would require much
investment in monitoring-especially in some other Member States
(Q 60). Strutt & Parker noted that small farms would
find compliance with regulation harder and more expensive than
larger enterprises (Q 204). Perhaps more importantly, Mr
Merricks warned against the use of regulation without clear analysis
of its environmental role-there should be a very good reason before
any constraint was imposed on agriculture (p 28).
never planted a hedge" (RSPB Q 45, Mr Merricks Q 60).
It was the Countryside Council for Wales'
opinion that if the environment is to be paid for then the aim
must not be to prevent bad but to achieve good (p 196). Incentives
should be available for environmental restoration and improvement
(p 228). The Countryside Commission noted that at present
the agri-environment regulations fund only multi-annual programmes.
The regulation should be broadened to include one-off capital
enhancements, for example linear features (hedges and walls) (pp 186, 192).
The inclusion of such capital projects was supported by the NFU
(p 238) and the Government indicated that they might support
such a move (Q 313).
32. The point was frequently
made that farmers generally have no vendetta against the environment;
they have no desire to harm it; indeed they positively value it.
This did not mean that farmers were always aware of the impact
their actions had on the environment (p 226). The NFU argued
that farmers needed help to achieve more environmentally friendly
practices (p 237) and this was reiterated by the RSPB (p 19)
and the Countryside Commission (p 183). FWAG advocated the
positive role of advice, as demonstrated by its officers' visits.
One farmer "bitten by the FWAG bug" was Mr Merricks,
who noted that the whole farm plan aspect adopted by FWAG was
appreciated by many more farmers than the association could help
(Q 59). The CPRE thought this approach admirable, and advocated
not only horizontal coverage of the United Kingdom but the taking
of a whole farm approach. All environmental aspects should be
considered and not just, for example, specific habitats in specific
schemes (QQ 190, 193). Such an approach could not be
imposed: what was needed was to harness the enthusiasm of the
farmer (Mr Merricks Q 70, p 30).
20 QQ 39, 105, pp 28, 46, 48-9, 183, 239. Back
pp 46, 181, 185, 215. Back
Local Government Association p 233 is the most expressive;
see also Strutt & Parker p 112. Back
European Commission Directorate-General VI, "Argumentaire
Agricole Agenda 2000", 17 July 1997,
question 23. Back
See glossary. Back
pp 17-18, 181, 225. Back
Mr Peter Murnaghan and Mrs Rosalind Rutt of Hampshire County Council
and Mrs Jane Woodward of West Oxfordshire District Council. Back
The administrators of the Tir Cymen agri-environment scheme. Back