A new ‘green watchdog’ set up by Defra Secretary Michael Gove should not create excessive bureaucracy for farmers looking after the countryside, according to the CLA.
The body, named the Office for Environmental Protection (OEP), will replace the European Commission in holding the Government to account on environmental issues.
It will be established by a new piece of legislation, the Environment Bill, which will also seek to tackle air quality problems; protect landscapes, wildlife and habitats; ensure resources and waste are handled more efficiently and improve the management of surface, ground and waste water.
When the Government first announced its plans for the OEP, the CLA warned it could increase bureaucracy for farmers.
But Christopher Price, director of policy at the group, told Farmers Guardian most of his concerns had been allayed by the consultation process.
“In our consultation response, we called for the proposed new body to ensure the Government is scrutinised and penalised sufficiently so environmental targets are met, but without adding extra cost and complexity,” he said.
“The new OEP is required to act objectively and proportionately, which should ensure the correct balance between environmental protection and the ability for rural businesses, especially land managers, to continue to be productive.
“We are pleased the Government has listened to us and believe existing green powers will be strengthened so farmers and land managers who deliver this important environmental work are supported in their role.”
Mr Price did, however, suggest the OEP would need to set out how it intends to avoid duplicating or confusing existing arrangements for scrutiny and enforcement which are carried out by other bodies such as Natural England and the Environment Agency.
The Soil Association also raised its own set of concerns about the new Environment Bill, claiming it was not clear that it would be ‘sufficiently aligned’ with the Agriculture Bill or Climate Change Act.
Rob Percival, head of policy for food for health at the group, called for legally-binding targets on soil health, pesticide reductions, animal welfare and farmland biodiversity to be included in the legislation.