The CLA says that Natural England's report, ‘Agri-Environment Schemes in England 2009’ published today (Wednesday 4 November), is proof that that farmers and land managers work hard to protect the environment.
CLA President Henry Aubrey-Fletcher said: "We welcome this report from Natural England. It is full of evidence and examples which show the true contribution farmers and land managers make to enhance the environment through agri-environment schemes.
"The large numbers of farmers participating in schemes, particularly the Entry Level Stewardship - ELS - scheme, demonstrates how environmental management is working alongside productive farm businesses.
"However, there is still more that needs to be done as we face an increasing number of challenges such as declines in some of our iconic wildlife species as well as water quality and climate change.
"Due to the lack of free advice when ELS was introduced, agreements have been criticised for not delivering enough against some of the scheme objectives.
"With the introduction of the Campaign for the Farmed Environment, led by the CLA and the NFU with other partner organisations, farmers and their advisers will be able to access advice that will allow them to build on their existing agreements and choose new options to boost environmental outcomes while still maintaining productive, profitable businesses."
The CLA President added: "Agri-environment schemes are crucial to today's farming and land managing industry. They demonstrate the industry's commitment to environmental management. Similarly they are able to assist the industry in moving towards the emission reduction goals set by the Government on climate change.
"There is always more to be done and the CLA would ask Natural England to consider a scheme between Entry and Higher Level Stewardship that includes funding to safeguard our traditional rural features such as hedgerows and stone walls while paying higher grants to reward farmers and land managers for excellent work in being custodians of the countryside."
Douglas Chalmers, Director CLA North said; “This report celebrating the contribution of landowners to our glorious environment will surprise few in the North West. We have more than 68% of our land in voluntary environmental schemes – over 700,000 hectares, and features created include 14,352 km of hedgerow, 2,741 km of ditches, 38.2 ha of woodland and 209 skylark plots.
“In addition, the North West’s native, woodland and farmland birds have all increased.
“It is interesting to note that the Report acknowledges that if agri-environment schemes are too uniform, some species can actually suffer.
“Landowners and managers have always taken their responsibilities for the environment seriously, and build biodiversity and landscape considerations into their management. They look after their land for future generations with a real appreciation of its appearance and ecology.”
'The role of sheep and cattle in managing our landscapes should not be overlooked, especially by those now claiming that the production and eating of meat is destroying our climate.'