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RSPB disappointed by NFU president’s biodiversity speech

18 November 2011

Nik Shelton
Media Officer
E-mail: nik.shelton@rspb.org.uk

The RSPB has moved to reassure farmers that their efforts to help nature are as necessary as ever after controversial comments by NFU president Peter Kendall.

In a speech this week Mr Kendall called for ministers to switch agricultural policy away from biodiversity, and concentrate more on productivity. The RSPB has responded by backing Government ambition to marry biodiversity with food production.

The NFU and RSPB are partners in the Campaign for the Farmed Environment which encourages farmers to put in place wildlife measures on their land. Mr Kendall’s latest comments threaten to undermine this approach.

Martin Harper, RSPB Conservation Director, said: “I am saddened by the words I have heard coming from Peter Kendall this week which could undermine all the hard work being done by farmers, the Government and conservationists to help our threatened farmland wildlife.

“We celebrate with Peter the environmental progress that is being made, for example the improvement in the quality of many rivers and the work by passionate farmers who have helped bring some of the most threatened farmland species back from the brink.

“But as he well knows there is a continuing decline in farmland birds across the UK – and overall numbers have plummeted by 50 per cent since 1970. We have also seen worrying falls in the numbers of butterflies, wild flowers and other species from our farmed countryside.

“Yes more research and development into productivity is needed in the industry – but not at the expense of agri environment schemes which deliver so much.

“What the Government, the RSPB and many farmers out there want to see is a healthy and productive countryside that supports our native wildlife. These comments are an unhelpful distraction from all our efforts.

“Biodiversity and food production are not mutually exclusive. I would like to reassure all those who have worked so hard get the Campaign for the Farmed Environment off the ground, and all those farmers who are doing what they can to create a space for nature on their land that their efforts are valued.

Notes

1.      Peter Kendall’s comments on biodiversity and productivity at the AIC conference this week can be found here - http://www.nfuonline.com/News/Productivity-key,-Kendall-tells-AIC/