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  The Social Field: People and the British Countryside  

Look to the Hills

by Markus Aranko

The reasons for change

Over the last few years, numerous so-called agri-environment schemes have been introduced into the farming subsidy system. Their aim has been to make farming practices sustainable, and to maintain the environmental quality of farmland, but they are still trapped within the existing, over-complex bureaucracy of productivity-based schemes. According to Rob Pile of the National Farmers Union: "farmers feel that the two kinds of scheme are not mutually exclusive, but they're certainly not in harmony."

[click here to hear Rob Pile describe the farmers' main objection to current schemes]

Decreasing amounts of labour on farms means there is less time to adopt new schemes and adding to that problem is the fact that the new schemes are complicated. They can increase a farmer’s paperwork time up to a total of one whole day a week. The only option is to go along with that since they dearly need the income, so they ‘farm to policy’, not to a real market, and the only obligation they have to their environment and culture is a moral one. Even if they feel a need to care for those factors, they may be forced into unsustainable, illogical methods simply because the productivity-based schemes pay better and faster.