Current Government Policy

Common agricultural policy (CAP)

When the European Union was set up, a Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) was devised which was aimed at improving farmers' standard of living, as well as making the individual countries within the union more self-sufficient. Initially CAP guaranteed prices for farmers, which led to more cereal crops being grown and more land being used to grow these crops.

The CAP was heavily criticised because this led to the removal of hedgerows and with that the loss of animal habitats. Woodlands were cut down and wetlands drained to make more room for arable farming which made rural areas look less visually attractive and reduced the amount of wildlife.

This policy was extremely successful but it led to the overproduction of many items such as milk, butter and grains. The EU amended their policy to encourage farmers to set-aside land – when farmers are paid to leave land as grass and not grow any crops on it.

Quotas were also set to limit the amount of certain items that farmers could produce, eg quotas helped to reduce the huge surplus of milk produced by dairy farmers. Under the Environmental Stewardship Policy farmers can also apply for subsidies and grants to restore natural habitats on their land such as woodland and wetlands.

In the UK the government can also designate areas of the countryside Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) or Environmentally Sensitive Areas (ESA). If this occurs on farmland, farmers are compensated for helping to protect the areas but it means they are restricted on how the land can be used.

Impact of CAP on the landscape

Set-aside land has provided significant environmental benefits as there is less pollution from chemicals used to grow crops. Fewer hedgerows have been removed and less woodland has been destroyed. Farmers are also given subsidies and grants to restore natural habitats on their land.

Glossary
  1. agribusinesses' A large-scale farming business that operates to make a big profit.
  2. agriculture Farming - especially arable or crop farming.
  3. animal habitats The area where wild plants and animals live.
  4. antibiotic Substance that controls the spread of bacteria in the body by killing them or stopping them reproducing.
  5. artificial chemicals Man-made substances that are used in farming to grow healthy crops.
  6. artificial irrigation When crops are artificially watered by sprinklers and irrigation canals due to a lack of rainfall.
  7. beef Meat that is produced from cows.
  8. biofuel A type of energy derived from renewable plant and animal materials, eg ethanol (often made from corn in the United States and sugarcane in Brazil), biodiesel (vegetable oils and liquid animal fats) and biogas (methane from animal manure).
  9. canals A man-made water way.
  10. cereal crops Arable crops, eg wheat, barley and oats.
  11. cheese-making When cheese is made
  12. chemical free food Food that has been produced without the use of fertilisers and pesticides.
  13. combine harvester A farm machine used to gather cereal crops such as wheat from fields.
  14. commercial arable farming Growing crops on a large scale for sale.
  15. Common Agricultural Policy A set of European Union laws that impact on farmers.
  16. consumer (Geography) The final user of a product.
  17. countryside A rural area.
  18. crop rotation When fields are used to grow the same crop in alternate years. This helps to maintain soil fertility.
  19. cultivated When land is used for growing crops.
  20. diversification When farmers undertake non-farming activities to generate more income.
  21. educational tours An activity when people are guided around and given a talk about the working life of a farm.
  22. employment When people are paid to work.
  23. Environmental Stewardship Policy A scheme passed by the Government that pays farmers to take more care of their land.
  24. environmentally friendly Activities that are not damaging to the natural environment.
  25. environmentally-sensitive area A special designation for a farming area that needs to be protected because of its landscape, wildlife or historical value.
  26. European Union A group of European countries initially formed to remove trade barriers and reduce potential for war within Europe.
  27. famine An extreme lack of food that leads to large numbers of people starving to death.
  28. fertiliser A nutrient added to the soil to increase the soil fertility.
  29. fishing When people catch fish.
  30. footpath erosion The wearing away of trails.
  31. fossil fuel Fuel which is finite, eg oil, coal and natural gas.
  32. fruit picking An activity when people pick fruit on a farm.
  33. grants Money that is given and does not have to be paid back.
  34. Green Revolution The application of modern farming techniques e.g. fertilisers, HYV seeds and irrigation.
  35. guaranteed prices When people know for certain how much they will receive for their goods.
  36. harvested When crops are collected from the fields.
  37. High Yield Variety Seeds Seeds which can produce up to ten times more crops than regular seeds.
  38. holiday home A dwelling that is used as a second home when people go on a break.
  39. horse-riding An activity involving people riding horses for leisure.
  40. infrastructure The basic structures needed for an area to function, for example roads and communications.
  41. irrigation When crops are artificially watered by sprinklers and irrigation canals due to a lack of rainfall.
  42. irrigation channels A man-made ditch used to collect rainwater.
  43. land reform When land is redistributed to landless people.
  44. local services A number of activities that serve the general public for different purposes e.g. schools and shops.
  45. machinery Mechanically operated equipment, eg a tractor.
  46. manual labour When people do all the work by hand.
  47. manure Animal dung (solid waste) used as fertiliser.
  48. market The customers who buy goods and services.
  49. mechanisation In industry where machines carry out tasks which humans used to do.
  50. natural habitats The surroundings in which a particular animal is able to live and thrive.
  51. off-roading An activity which involves people manoeuvring four-wheel drive cars over rough terrain.
  52. organic farming When crops are grown without the use of chemicals.
  53. organic milk Milk that has been produced without the use of chemicals.
  54. out-migration When people move away from an area.
  55. paint ball An activity which involved people stalking each other in teams and 'shooting' them with paint.
  56. pesticide General name for chemicals used to kill pest species that feed on crops and reduce crop yield.
  57. plough A farm machine used to turn over the soil in preparation for seeds to be sewn.
  58. pollution Contaminating the air, land or water with harmful substances.
  59. profit The difference between revenue and costs. A key aim for all businesses.
  60. quad-biking An activity where people ride four-wheeled motorbikes over rough terrain.
  61. quotas A limit on the amount that can be produced.
  62. rural area An area of countryside.
  63. rural depopulation The movement of people out of the countryside.
  64. rural landscape An area of countryside.
  65. scenery The appearance of a place.
  66. services A number of activities that serve the general public for different purposes e.g. restaurants and cinemas.
  67. Sites of Special Scientific Interest A designated area in the UK which is protected.
  68. sprinklers A spray used to water crops artificially.
  69. standard of living The amount of wealth or personal comfort that a person or group of people have.
  70. subsistence farming When people only grow enough food to feed themselves and their family.
  71. surplus When there are extra crops.
  72. tourism The business of providing holidays for people travelling for pleasure. These travellers are called tourists.
  73. tourist facilities Services which are provided for visitors e.g. toilets, restaurants, hotels and souvenir shops.
  74. tractor A machine used to do various types of work on a farm.
  75. traffic congestion When a road is overused and vehicles using it are unable to move freely.
  76. urban area A built-up place, eg a town or city.
  77. water buffalo A large animal used to pull simple farm ploughs in poor countries that cannot afford tractors.
  78. wetlands Land saturated with water, such as a marsh or swamp.
  79. wildlife Non-domesticated/wild plants and animals.
  80. woodlands An area of trees (also called a forest).
  81. yield The amount of crops harvested from a certain area.