A new industry-backed guide to funding and support available for dairy farmers has been launched by Natural England today (Tuesday 4 September) at Livestock 2012, which is taking place today and tomorrow at the NEC Birmingham.
(l-r) Chirs Coxen (DairyCo), Luke Ryder (NFU), Poul Christensen (Chair, Natural England), Geoff Sansome (Director for Land Management, Natural England) launching the leaflet at Livestock 2012.
The booklet - which has been produced by Natural England in consultation with The National Farmers’ Union, the RABDF (The Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers), DairyCo and the Environment Agency - provides clear and helpful information on how environmental management through Entry Level Stewardship (ELS) and Catchment Sensitive Farming (CSF) can complement farming practices and provide business benefits.
The Funding and support for dairy farmers leaflet provides a concise and straightforward overview of information and new scheme developments relevant to dairy farmers. It covers the key sources of grant aid, incentive schemes and advice available to help the economic viability and environmental sustainability of this important agricultural sector.
Launching the leaflet at Livestock 2012, the industry’s leading business to business event, Geoff Sansome, Natural England’s Director of Land Management (South), said: “We wanted to make it easier for farmers to get the appropriate assistance and guidance they need and to provide advice in an integrated way that is endorsed by the industry.
“This year’s wet weather and milk pricing concerns have presented significant challenges for the dairy sector and it’s important that we support our milk producers by ensuring they have the latest information they need to help take informed decisions when making their environmental and business plans. For example, there are a wide range of Environmental Stewardship options available to dairy farmers and this leaflet highlights those which can be of best value and most readily integrated into dairy units.”
Welcoming the new leaflet, Agriculture Minister Jim Paice said: “Dairy farmers help to protect and conserve our landscapes and habitats through agri-environment schemes. From January there will be new stewardship options available such as growing legume and herb rich swards beneficial for invertebrates and nutritious for livestock which I encourage them to take advantage of to complement existing practices around hedge management and low input grassland.”
Luke Ryder, NFU Dairy Adviser, said: “British dairy farmers are committed to producing quality products of high nutritive value whilst benefiting the local countryside and environment. The information, support and funding sources detailed in this leaflet are extremely important in helping dairy farmers to target their environmental activities.”
This approach is supported on the ground by milk producers such as Michael Oakes of Beacon Hill Farm who runs a dairy herd at his farm at Rednal near Birmingham. He brought the farm into Natural England’s Entry Level Scheme in 2005 and says: "We need a profitable dairy business but are also aware of the importance of environmental sustainability. The ELS very low input grassland option fits really well with our system, saving fertiliser costs while still being available for young stock to graze."
Chris Duller of DairyCo added: "While the primary focus of these schemes is to benefit the environment, there are clear financial and production gains to be had from better nutrient use and soil management. The funding will help improve efficiencies and reduce costs, and send a clear message to consumers that dairy farmers are taking positive steps to protect and enhance the countryside."
Tim Brigstocke, RABDF Policy Director, added: “Dairy farmers have always recognised the importance of agri-environmental schemes and ELS together with Single Payments are now very important income sources to create a sustainable dairy sector. There continue to be opportunities for those who farm in Catchment Sensitive Farming areas. Efficient dairy farming goes hand in hand with good environmental practice.”
The booklet will make it easier for farmers with current Environmentally Sensitive Area agreements to plan for a transition into the Entry Level Stewardship scheme. Other farmers and land managers in the sector will be renewing their ELS agreements and the leaflet will help them understand what priority options should be included to maximise benefits for both their farming businesses and the environment.
It also contains information about changes to the ELS scheme options that are being introduced as part of the Defra-led programme, Making Environmental Stewardship More Effective (MESME). The changes come into effect from 1 January 2013, and farmers need information about these changes now, to help them plan future agreements.
The leaflet can be downloaded from the Natural England publications website here.
Natural England advisers will be on hand during both days of Livestock 2012 and providing a one-stop advice point for customers in partnership with Catchment Sensitive Farming, British Cattle Movement Service, Rural Payments Agency and the Environment Agency. Visit us during the event at stand BM-237 in Hall 19 (alongside the NFU stand).
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