On Monday I did an interview for the BBC Farming Today programme, with the NFU’s Guy Smith. If you want to listen to that interview you can but you won’t learn anything new from it as the NFU is still in denial over the loss of farmland wildlife and the role that farming has played in it.
Much more importantly, the points I made were put to the Agriculture Minister, Jim Paice, on Farming Today yesterday and what Mr Paice said is well worth listening to a couple of times. Defra is determined to reverse the declines in farmland wildlife.
I was very pleased to hear the Minister strongly reject the idea that there is a conflict between food production and biodiversity production – and he referred to the work of the RSPB at Hope Farm and of GWCT at Loddington (as I often do in this blog, as I did in my discussion with Guy Smith (although it was edited out) and as the NFU never ever ever do when they talk about these matters) as good examples where food production and wildlife recovery go hand in hand. Quite right!
The Minister was also open about the fact that the Campaign for the Farmed Environment would miss some of its targets – there’s never been much doubt about it he said. This is a shame in practice, but there never has been much doubt about it, and it’s good to hear the Minister being so open. It isn’t Defra’s failure of course, this is a Big Society attempted ‘solution’ (brought in by the Labour Government not by this Coalition Government) and it has been up to the NFU, CLA and farmers to meet the targets. And so the Minister loses no face in being honest that targets won’t be met but the NFU and CLA do lose face as they haven’t delivered what they said they would do.
The Minister was strong on the fact that farmers need to do more and that the schemes under his control have to enable them to do more.
All in all this was a very good and sensible series of points by the Minister. Much of it was entirely contrary to what the NFU seem to say on behalf of farmers. I like Mr Paice – he is a farmer himself and so he sees things from that perspective, and he can be a bit grumpy sometimes, but he has a true feel for farming, wildlife and the countryside in general. I’d like him to push Defra to move further and quicker but there is some movement and it is generally in the right direction.