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    Defra Must Not Turn Back the Set-Aside Clock
11/06/08

The Tenant Farmers Association has warned the Government that it would be a serious mistake to either re-impose a set-aside requirement upon arable farmers, or seek to enhance other elements of cross compliance under the Single Payment Scheme (SPS).

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Speaking at the Cereals Event at Leadenham, Lincolnshire, TFA National Chairman Greg Bliss said “The world has moved on and DEFRA and those advising it must do so as well. Set-aside was developed as a supply control mechanism in the 1980s, when Europe was significantly concerned about surplus production. We are in a completely different ball game today with global cereals stocks at their lowest levels for decades and with a suspected exponential increase in the demand for food into the middle of this century”.

The TFA is concerned that pressure from environmental organisations, which has been latched on to by Natural England, may convince DEFRA Ministers that they either need to re-introduce set-aside or significantly enhance cross compliance on other arable ground within the SPS.

"Any environmental benefit obtained through set-aside was very much created by accident rather than design. It is a bit rich that the same environmental organisations that have in the past criticised set-aside are now treating it like a long lost friend. It is through the various Environmental Stewardship schemes that we should be focusing our attention in order to obtain environmental benefits. In that way benefits can be properly targeted and resourced. After only three years in existence these schemes are providing benefit so let’s build on them,” said Mr Bliss.

"To turn back the clock by re-introducing set-aside or to seek to enhance cross compliance regulations would be severely damaging to our competitiveness and ability to meet the challenges of food security which are present now and which will intensify into the future. The cost base of agriculture and arable production in particular, has increased massively in recent months. Farmers are already angered at the Government's lack of help with the doubling in fuel costs experienced by farmers over the past 12 months. To re-impose set-aside or stronger cross compliance conditions would simply add insult to injury," said Mr Bliss.

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Tenant Farmers Association