At the end of July, the European Commission proposed to change compulsory set-aside from eight to zero percent for the 2008 crop season.

This is a direct result of a supply-side shortage on the cereals market.

The Game Conservancy Trust’s Dr Stephen Tapper said he was shocked by the decision: “We were taken aback by the sudden announcement to put set-aside to zero for 2008. While we appreciate set-aside was born of a different era and needs to be phased out as the Common Agricultural Policy undergoes further reform, getting rid of it at a stroke is a serious policy mistake.”

Conservation and shooting groups say set-aside has become an important environmental feature.

Tim Russell, director of conservation at BASC, commented: “Clearly the reduction of set-aside will mean the loss of large areas of habitat that is of benefit to game birds and other wildlife.”

The rest of this story will appear in the 30 August edition of Shooting Times.

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