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Loss of set-aside threatens farmland bird recovery

Last modified: 30 January 2008

Skylark in song-flight

The RSPB warns that wildlife such as skylarks and stone-curlews could be under threat due to large areas of set-aside farmland going under the plough this winter.

Last year the RSPB predicted that high prices for wheat, caused in part by the worrying government incentives to grow biofuels, would prove impossible for farmers to ignore, but the sheer scale of the habitat loss shown in Defra’s announcement today comes as a unwelcome shock.

RSPB research suggests that the loss of uncropped land could have significant impacts on wildlife

The issue was highlighted by the RSPB when the European Commission announced its plans for the amount of set-aside land to be at 0% last summer.

RSPB research suggests that the loss of uncropped land on this scale, especially if mirrored across Europe, could have significant impacts on wildlife.

The RSPB’s Gareth Morgan, Head of Agriculture Policy, says: 'We are extremely worried about what this means for wildlife, especially as the European Commission have failed to put a realistic proposal on the table for anything to replace the wildlife benefits of set-aside.

'We applaud Defra for undertaking this research but these results are a wake-up call. They must now act to ensure a measure is adopted on all farmland in England'

The current 'Health Check' of the CAP provides an ideal opportunity for the UK to take the lead and convince other European countries that a measure to replace the wildlife benefits of set aside across the whole of Europe is needed.

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At Hope Farm, the RSPB is developing farming techniques that will benefit wildlife

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