Farming land management: Set-aside - Campaign for the Farmed Environment

The EU abolished the requirement for a farmer to set aside a portion of their land. Details are included in the handbook "Single Payment Scheme – Information for farmers and growers in England - January 2009 update" (PDF).

Defra recognised that set-aside has delivered some important environmental benefits for resource protection, farmland birds and wider biodiversity. Further details available on Sir Don Curry’s High Level Set-Aside Group pages.

In the spring we held a consultation on how to recapture these benefits now that compulsory set-aside has been abolished. The consultation ran from 4 March to 27 May 2009, covering proposed changes to the cross compliance Good Agricultural and Environmental Conditions (GAECs) and related measures in England, including recapturing the environmental benefits of set-aside. Two possible alternatives to set-aside were considered – a combined regulatory/incentive approach and a purely voluntary approach, led by industry.

At the Royal Show Hilary Been announced the decision to pursue the voluntary approach, called ‘A Campaign for the Farmed Environment’.

The Campaign will promote activities by farmers and land managers which secure a national geographical spread of the following environmental benefits:

  • Farmland birds (to address the three key requirements of wild birds, namely over-wintering feeding habitat, spring/summer breeding sites and spring feeding opportunities)
  • Resource protection (to address soil conservation and water protection by locating uncropped areas, buffer strips and/or adopting agronomic practices which minimise the risk of soil erosion and diffuse pollution to water)
  • Biodiversity provision (to retain/create areas of uncropped or open habitat that diversify the arable landscape and provide opportunities for open ground species, and feeding and breeding sites often for more common species)

The Campaign is based around key activities targeted at arable farmers:

  • Increase the uptake of particularly valuable in field options in Environmental Stewardship (ES) and contribute to the overall expansion of the scheme
  • Retain and expand the area of uncropped land and enhance its environmental management
  • Increase the area of land in the most effective (unrewarded) voluntary measures
  • Encourage farmers outside ES to take up voluntary measures 

A baseline survey will be carried out in the autumn to establish the level of voluntary environmental management already carried out on farms. Annual monitoring will be used to monitor progress of the Campaign. Secretary of State will receive annual public progress reports including detail on progress at a local level. A mandatory fallback could be introduced at a future date if deemed necessary.

One of strengths of Campaign is engaging local key partners in developing plans identifying local priorities for action, working with existing and new advice programmes, using farming peers to lead the Campaign.

The Campaign was formally launched on 5th November 2009. Further details on the Campaign are available on the Campaign website,

See also

Further information

  • Defra helpline – 08459 33 55 77
  • Rural Payments Agency helpline – 0845 603 7777
  • NFU helpline - 02476 858500
  • Campaign helpline - or 024 7685 8892

Page last modified: 5 November 2009
Page published: 1 July 2006