In July, the European Commission announced its intention to reduce the rate of set-aside from 8% to 0% for the 2008 harvest year. The announcement was driven by market pressures resulting from low cereal stocks after a poor 2006 harvest.

NE’s analysis suggests that if the set-aside rate was allowed to fall to zero, “there would be major environmental impact, the most serious of which would include a significant decline in farmland bird numbers, such as grey partridge.”

NE commented: “A rate of 5 per cent of all arable land would offset the negative environmental impact of an increase in the area of land cropped.”

The rest of this story will appear in the 6 September edition of Shooting Times.

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