Farming on front line of green battle

Farming is on the front-line of the environmental challenges the world faces and the issue is "front of mind" for government

, according to John Bourne, Defra's deputy director, livestock and livestock products.

He told delegates to the BMPA conference last week that Defra was continuing to explore the possibility of creating an environmental standard for the industry: "We are exploring with a range of stakeholders along the food chain whether we can agree an approach to a 'green standard' that informs consumers and gives farmers recognition in the market place."

He highlighted that of the £3.9bn budget for the 2007 to 2013 England Rural Development Programme, around £3.3bn will be allocated to agri-environment and other land management schemes. He said the funding is aimed at helping farmers to manage the land more sustainably and deliver important environmental outcomes on biodiversity, landscape and access, water quality and climate change.

"For many in the countryside, looking after the environment is already a way of life. The new funding from this programme will help support the English countryside as a thriving place to live and work, as well as a beautiful place to visit."

Their needs to be co-operation between industry and government, he added: "The EU published a report a year ago on the inpact of products on the environment, and identified that between 20% and 30% of an individuals impact on the environment is the food they consume. And of this, meat has by far the highest impact, followed by dairy products.

"We cannot ignore this. But we also have to eat, and meat and other livestock products are an important source of nutrients. We and you will need to work together to maximise the positives and minimise the negatives."

He said they would be using past experience, such as the development of the dairy roadmap, to find solutions for the meat industry: "The dairy roadmap is a very positive example of how industry and government can effectively engage to achieve realistic and positive outcomes for the future. We are now considering how we can use this same approach with the meat sectors - learning lessons from the dairy sector as we go - and we will be seeking your active involvement in this process."