‘Government should switch its focus from bio-diversity and concentrate on farm productivity if it wants to make the most of British agriculture’s potential as an engine for growth‘ Peter Kendall, the President of the NFU, said on Wednesday.
Kendall continued with this most callous, calculated and casual statement ‘The point is we haven’t got a bio-diversity crisis in this country. Most of the key environmental indicators have been moving in the right direction and almost 70 per cent of farmland is covered by an agri-environment scheme. ‘.
We should expect better from the President of the organisation that is the ‘Voice of British farming’.
In particular, let us just look at the current state of farmland birds – an important environmental indicator which has been used by governments to assess the overall state of biodiversity in the countryside. You might think that the National FARMERS Union might take some interest in the fate of FARMLAND birds. They might even take some responsibility for how that biodiversity is doing.
This graph, from the Defra website, shows the fate of farmland birds – the birds living on land over which NFU members are custodians (here is the link so that you can have a closer look at it).
In 45 years, but mostly in the last 35 years (since my 18th birthday) farmland birds in England (the green line) have more than halved in numbers. This is despite some species included in the index (such as wood pigeon) showing very big increases in numbers, the index is dragged down by the much greater decreases in population of many farmland specialists such as tree sparrow, corn bunting and the iconic skylark. If you split the overall data (the green line) into generalists (the brown line) and specialists (the purple line) you find that generalist species have maintained their populations and it is the species that depend on agriculture the most which have declined the most.
No crisis, Peter? Just saying it doesn’t mean it’s true. Your remarks show that you either don’t understand or you just don’t care. The NFU under its current leadership is, as I wrote on departing the RSPB, a fundamentally anti-environment organisation. But do we hear a word of criticism from his members? Will Defra give its favourite stakeholder a dressing down for talking such rubbish? And will we hear the NGOs combatting this nonsense?