Directors and staff of Norfolk FWAG were fortunate enough to meet with the Secretary Of State for Environment Food and Rural Affairs, the Right Honourable Elizabeth Truss MP just before Christmas.

Norfolk FWAG had requested this meeting to raise the concerns of their members with the Minister regarding the new Countryside Stewardship scheme.

Agri-environment schemes are a vital part of the farm business for many FWAG members, and it is important that the new Countryside Stewardship scheme is fit for purpose.

Issues raised included the need to simplify guidance and control and verification elements of the scheme, and concern that poor grassland payment rates were forcing some farmers to consider ploughing up former arable reversion land. The stringency of RPA inspections were also raised as an issue as they are stopping many conservation-minded farmers from considering transferring to Countryside Stewardship.

The Minister explained that many of the unfriendly and bureaucratic elements of the scheme were necessary to satisfy European Union rules. She agreed to take up the points raised in the meeting with DEFRA.

One of the benefits of Norfolk FWAG membership is this chance to have a voice on policy issues at a high level. To join contact advice@norfolkfwag.co.uk.