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.