This could be really bad for Europe’s wildlife

We still don’t know what will emerge in the EU Budget proposals a week today but it is clear that cuts to Pillar 2 are certainly on the cards so I would ask you to support the RSPB’s campaign and let President Barroso know that you care about this issue.

There are plenty of farmers who care about this too, but they seem to be relying on conservationists, as usual, to make the case for retaining wildlife-friendly grants.  Just as last summer when domestic budget cuts could have seen reductions in incentives for wildlife-friendly farming it is the nature conservation organisations, led by the RSPB, who are making the running and the so-called voices of farming, the NFU and the CLA, who remain publicly quiet about these issues.

The best that the NFU can come up with, and I have asked them, is this statement on their website which they claim shows that their message on CAP reform ‘remains clear’.  It remains clearly ambiguous I would say.  The NFU do say that ‘greening’ is a ‘controversial’ issue – their usual level of enthusiasm for the natural environment, I see.

I did see NFU President, Peter Kendall, on the BBC news yesterday but, again, I was none the wiser about the NFU’s position on Pillar 2 cuts.  What is clear is that the NFU will keep going on about feeding the world as though food production and wildlife production are in complete opposition to each other.  We know that this is not true – the RSPB’s Hope Farm is a great counter-example, and we can be highly sceptical about whether the NFU’s mission is to feed the world when they keep pressing for domestic and international biofuel production.

When the going gets tough for wildlife, climate change, pollution or any other environmental issue the NFU is either on the other side or nowhere to be seen.  I say again that the NFU is a thoroughly anti-environment organisation and one whose views do not represent those farmers who do so much good for wildlife.  If I were an NFU member who had signed up to Higher Level Stewardship or organic schemes in England then I would be wondering why the NFU were not fighting for this funding to continue.

And what about the CLA?  Silence there too – in fact they were moaning about not being able to cull badgers yesterday rather than the fate of Pillar 2 funding across the continent of Europe.  I’ll give them a bit of a nudge to see whether they have noticed that something is happening.

And amid this apparent insouciance across the organisations that ‘represent’ farmers, it is worth pointing out that Defra have this issue absolutely right.  Their position is that Pillar 2 should not be cut but that Pillar 1 should be (if anything is).

Good for them – this line won’t make them popular with the NFU, but then it might be too late for that anyway, but is the right stance for a government department which has responsibilities for ensuring good value for public expenditure (unlike the farming unions who can press the narrow interests of some of their members), have a remit for wildlife and care about sustainable food production.  And given the fact that there is diminishing cash available to save our wildlife then Mrs Spelman and team are increasingly reliant on CAP funding if the UK is to go any way to meeting the Nagoya targets which were agreed last autumn.

Note: the first issue of my monthly newsblast will be out in early July – sign up on this website (markavery.info) to receive a free copy.  It will include a review of the Natural Environment White Paper which was published while I was enjoying myself in the USA. And my book ‘Blogging for Nature contains many up-to-date blogs from my RSPB days on subjects such as how wonderful is the NFU, what should the Natural Environment White Paper say and the beauties of nature.

 

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7 Replies to “This could be really bad for Europe’s wildlife”

  1. Mark - Welcome back ! Yes - the silence from the bodies representing farmers is disappointing but not surprising when their point is to promote profit and farming as a business. Wildlife doesn't fit neatly into this. Relying on voluntary measures won't work so incentives are the only realistic way. I don't buy the line that farmers will be poorer - I pay half my salary to the government and work 12 hour days and am not particularly rich so I have little sympathy with this argument. Competition and business diversification is the way forward for farmers - like any business - and where they are prepared to put land aside for wildlife then they should be compensated/paid for it - I have no problem with that, after all, we don't complain about paying taxes to councils to manage parks and other amenities and protecting our common heritage that is our wildlife and unique countryside is far more important.

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  2. Oh, and heres another real threat to world food supplies - biofuels. The NFU site is incredible (literally), the key point being the one about farm profitability - were the Government/EU to announce a £500/ha/pa subsidy for biofuels that would be the last you heard about food security !

    I also enjoyed NFU's comments about a 'free and competitive' market for food. As commodity prices rise maybe its time to cut the prairies of East Anglia & central and northern France free of the subsidy regime altogether ? Or at least a gradual reduction - and really turn our attention to what CAP was designed for, supporting less favoured (and hopefully environmentally rich) farming, which is patently failing at the moment - most people in this country, including environmentalists, are completely unaware that in large parts of rural Europe whole areas are becoming de-popualted as low intensity farming fails.

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  3. Is it really that difficult for conservationists that farmers went into farming to produce food and a by-product has come along in the last few years of wildlife conservation,you may not think food production important but someone so clever as Mark would have all the details of what you would be allowed each week in the early1950s ration book days.Assure you you would soon think differently.Do us less intellectually clever farmers continually criticise conservation estates about their very poor farming record overall,of course not indeed cannot recall it ever happening.The solution instead of carping on so much is for conservationists to buy estates and then they can do whatever they like on it.Oh all of a sudden you all realise that you are in a big substantial minority of about 2%,that includes me as well even if anyone stretches the truth to the limit it may go up by double.The sad conclusion for you lot and myself is that the vast 90+% are more interested in food.When you recognise that fact and temper your dislike of the very small amout of tax you put in farmers pocket wildlife will be able to benefit from better relations between farmers and conservationists.Would it not be ironic if to give yourself Mark a really good education that made you undoubtadly very clever even though I feel sure you worked hard to get your degree or whatever us farmers on the end of your bashing contributed taxes to that education.Of course no one asked us if we wanted to.Neither when I and lots more like me paid our subs to the RSPB for many years in the past did we ever get asked if we minded that a part of that sub went on a really good salary far in excess of average farmers income or if we wanted the choice of slightly smaller sub and said Conservation Officer getting slightly smaller salary.Obviously you can blog whatever you want but think since you came back from USA you perhaps made Martins job much harder as he seems to want better relationship with majority of farmers.

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    1. Dennis - you are very welcome to make comments here but sometimes you aren't commenting on what I have actually written but on a version of it in your own head. I do think that food production is important - but I don't think it is the only important thing; I don't mind some of my taxes going as income support to farmers - but I'd rather it went to those farmers who are most deserving (either because they are hard up (like other income support) or those who are doing a good job for nature). But, as I say, you are very welcome here.

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  4. Fantastic to have you back fighting for the environment Mark. Keep at them and hopefully develop a pressure group with a strong voice and a coherent message.

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