Countryside Stewardship has been castigated since its introduction in 2014. Applications have never reached targets and the scheme is now seen as an unmitigated disaster. Higher Level contracts under the previous Environmental Stewardship lasted for ten years so there are still many running. However, as they expire, the vast majority of farmers are choosing not to continue under the new scheme as it is seen as far too complex and bureaucratic. On top of that, it now seems that payments are running up to nine months in arrears. In many cases, the huge investment by means of grants will be wasted if farmers do not continue with conservation because Countryside Stewardship is simply not fit for purpose.
Sex pheromones that prevent the successful mating of specific insects are increasingly being used in place of insecticides. But they are expensive to produce by chemical synthesis. Now, however, scientists have genetically modified plants to produce the pheromones which is much cheaper and may, in time, cut out the cost of application. For example, a pilot project called SexyPlant created a genetically modified tobacco plant that produces and releases the sex pheromones of the cotton bollworm and navel orangeworm, both larvae of moths. This is now being improved to give bigger yields. The same plant has already been engineered by others to produce ebola antibodies and polio vaccine.
EFRA Committee lambasts Defra
The parliamentary Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee has lambasted Defra for its ‘vague approach to Brexit’. Chaired by Neil Parish MP, who had previously described the recent Defra Command Paper on the future of farm policy as ‘woefully lacking on anything to do with proper food production’, the Committee has published specific recommendations and called for more detail and far greater clarity before the Agriculture Bill later this year.
NFU to leave Copa-Cogeca?
Copa-Cogeca is the Europe-wide umbrella group of farm unions and co-operatives, a powerful lobby group fighting for farmers and growers in the Brussels corridors of power. However, its rules state that member organisations must represent countries within the European Union. This means that the NFU will no longer qualify for membership when the UK leaves the EU on 29th March next year. The NFU has formally requested to remain a member but that will require a change to the rules.