https://naturalengland.blog.gov.uk/2016/11/04/10-years-of-csf-helping-over-19300-farmers-and-the-environment/

10 years of CSF - helping over 19,300 farmers and the environment

Bob Middleton is a project manager for Catchment Sensitive Farming at Natural England. He tells us all about the 10th anniversary of the scheme, and what has been achieved so far.

We often hear the words change and reform and about the need to modernise; all important to allow us to adapt and innovate. However, when it comes to building trust and confidence, we also need to identify those areas where these strengths are allied to continuity and stability; rare commodities in the modern world but, necessary characteristics to succeed.

On Wednesday 19th October, I saw the great value of continuity and stability.  I attended a fantastic event that marked 10 years of Catchment Sensitive Farming (CSF). This programme works with farmers to reduce diffuse pollution and improve the quality of our water in rivers, lakes and beaches. 40 people, all of whom had been involved in CSF from the beginning back in 2006, came together at the Wildlife and Wetlands Trust’ s London Wetland Centre. A wide range of organisations were represented, including those who had directly worked on the project, farmers and representatives from farming and wildlife organisations.

Cover cropping CSF option - Winter turnip rape and vetch soaking up Nitrogen on Cotswold brash. Credit: Andrew Russell (Natural England)
Cover cropping CSF option - winter turnip rape and vetch soaking up nitrogen on Cotswold brash. Credit: Andrew Russell (Natural England).

There was a lively atmosphere from the beginning as people assembled and we moved into the more formal proceedings. Andrew Sells (Chairman of Natural England) welcomed  attendees and spoke about how everyone in the room had contributed  to making CSF such a success in delivering ‘5 wins’ – water quality, farm businesses, biodiversity, air quality and natural flood management.  So much better than just a ‘win-win’. Sonia Phippard (Director General, Defra) focused on the value of CSF as a sound base from which to address future challenges.

Inter row sowing of grass in maize under CSF to help keep soil in place over winter and soak up nutrients. Credit: Andrew Russell (Natural England).
Inter row sowing of grass in maize under CSF to help keep soil in place over winter and soak up nutrients. Credit: Andrew Russell (Natural England).
Dr David Jones (The British Museum) explaining speaking to farmers at a CSF event in Wiltshire how earth worms play a significant role in keeping soils healthy.
Dr David Jones (from The Natural History Museum) explaining how earth worms play a significant role in keeping soils healthy. Credit: Morag Walker (Natural England).

After lunch, several people who have been involved in CSF since 2006 shared their experiences of the project. Poul Hovesen (Estate Manager, Holkham and Salle Estates) brought a farmer perspective and concentrated on the value of working in partnership with farmers and others who actually make the changes that make such a difference. Phil Smith (CSF Evidence Manager, Environment Agency) stressed the value of evidence that not only demonstrates the impact of CSF but also allows us to work in the highest priority areas and help CSF officers and partners make the best decisions on the ground. Stuart Moss (CSF Officer, Natural England) emphasised the importance of problem solving and adapting approaches to local circumstances, all the while entertaining us with fantastic pictures of the North East landscape (and sheep dips!).

Sprayer fill/washdown area installed under CSF. Credit: Andrew Russell (Natural England).
Sprayer fill/washdown area installed under CSF. Credit: Andrew Russell (Natural England).
CSF is helping to protect our precious rivers and chalkstreams for the benefit of fish (grayling pictured) and other aquatic wildlife
CSF is helping to protect our precious rivers and chalkstreams for the benefit of fish (grayling pictured) and other aquatic wildlife.

Our last two speakers, Diane Mitchell (National Farmers Union) and Hannah Freeman (Wildfowl and Wetland Trust) concentrated on the different ways in which CSF has facilitated their partnerships and helped them to succeed through long-term support and how CSF is well-respected among farmers and their advisers.

A sediment pond installed under CSF two years after creation. Credit: Andrew Russell Natural England).
A sediment pond installed under CSF two years after creation. Credit: Andrew Russell (Natural England).

I came away from the day with the sense that the event had been enjoyed by everyone and we had  recognised the achievements of the first 10 years of our collective enterprise. This would not have been possible without those slightly old fashioned concepts of continuity and stability. Long may they continue.  Here are some of the highlights and achievements of CSF over the 10 year period:

  • Delivery of advice to over 19,300 farmers and land managers across England.
  • Contribution to a 50% reduction in pesticides in our rivers.
  • 85% of farmers involved in CSF say they give water pollution a high priority now.
  • Initiation of 100,000 actions  by farmers to reduce the risk of water pollution.
  • The reduction of sediment in our rivers.
  • 92% of farmer satisfaction with CSF 1:1 farm advice.
  • 70% of farmers who have made positive changes to water quality in the last 2 years plan more change in the future.
  • CSF options have covered 2.6 million hectares of land.
Catchment Sensitive Farming Officers that attended the event. Credit: Morag Walker, Natural England
Catchment Sensitive Farming Officers that attended the event. Credit: Morag Walker, Natural England.

Contact our CSF team at: csf.communications@naturalengland.org.uk for more information.

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