As the President of the National Farmers Union you claim to be the ‘voice of farming’ and last week you made a speech where you said that there is no ‘biodiversity crisis’ and government should ‘switch its focus from biodiversity’ to production.
Speaking as one of the people who pays for your and other farmers’ Single Farm Payments that isn’t what I want at all. I’d like better value for money from my taxes going into farming. If you are representing farmers as a whole when you call for a switch from biodiversity to production then I’m not sure that I want my taxes to continue to be used as income support for all farmers, rich and poor, good and bad, wildlife friendly and wildlife unfriendly.
I don’t own a farm, but I have spent a lot of time walking in the countryside and I can tell you that both where I grew up in north Somerset, and where I live now in Northamptonshire, the countryside is shockingly poor in wildlife. Millions of birds have been lost from farmland because of the way that ‘we’ farm. We can do so much better, as shown by the RSPB at Hope Farm and the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust at Loddington. Both farms show how wildlife and productive farming can go hand in hand.
And in my previous role with the RSPB I met lots and lots of farmers who were doing good things on their farms – and I was pleased that those good things were funded by government grants (ie our taxes) that the RSPB had argued for in Europe and Westminster and more recently in the devolved administrations. During my time at the RSPB we increased our farm advisory staff, brought in the Volunteer and Farmer Alliance Project, bought Hope Farm and instigated the Nature of Farming Awards. We, and I, did our bit to get alongside farmers and farming.
Now as an independent writer, and as one of the millions of people helping to fund farming through the payments you receive and the grants you are offered, I’d like to hear from you about your vision for a countryside richer in wildlife and how it can be achieved. I’m sure you’ve thought about this a lot.
I’ve spent quite a bit of my life defending the large amount of money that goes into farming from the taxpayer and never got much thanks for that from your organisation. I am now wondering whether, if your views are even widely held, let alone held by a majority of farmers, we shouldn’t be thinking of a radically different deal for British farming. I wonder whether I should get some of my taxes back – how would you persuade me I’m wrong on that one?
You can email me at this website or offer a guest blog here to make your case – and I’ll also pop a copy of this letter in the post to you too. You might get a few letters from readers of Birdwatch magazine too as in the December issue this letter is mentioned.
I hope I hear from you, as you are economically indebted to millions of people like me.
Peter Kendall is based at the NFU, Stoneleigh Park, Warwickshire, CV8 2TZ. The NFU represents farmers in England and Wales.
But there is also a NFU Cymru in Wales whose President is Edmund Bailey who is based at: NFU Cymru, Agriculture House, Royal Welsh Showground, Builth Wells, LD2 3TU
In Scotland, the NFUS President is Nigel Miller who is based at: NFUS, Rural Centre – West Mains, Ingliston, Midlothian
In Northern Ireland there is the Ulster Farmers Union, whose President is John Thompson who is based at: UFU, 475 Antrim Road, Belfast, Antrim, BT15 3DA