My passion for wildlife was stimulated in my teenage years, mainly thanks to my Mum (a biology teacher) who made me look at the world differently and being inspired by writers such as Paul Colinvaux. This early interest developed into biological research in my 20s, when I did practical conservation work in places such as the Comores and Mongolia.
Today, any free time I have I spend pottering around the flatlands of East Anglia or escaping to our hut on the Northumberland coast looking for wildlife and castles with my wife and children.
I studied Biological Sciences at Oxford and Conservation at UCL, and worked at Wildlife and Countryside Link before spending five years as Conservation Director at Plantlife.
I joined the RSPB as Head of Government Affairs in 2004, became Head of Sustainable Development in 2006, before becoming Conservation Director in 2011.
Just days before the publication of Defra’s long-awaited consultation on how it plans to spend c£2 billion annually through the Common Agriculture Policy, a group of farmers travelled to London to make sure MPs and Ministers knew exactly how important agri-environment schemes are to them – not just for the wildlife they help support but as a key part of more sustainable farm businesses.
Supported by the RSPB, the Wildlife Trusts and National Trust, over 25 farmers, from Cumbria to Essex and from Devon to North Yorkshire took a day out from their busy enterprises to come to London. I was sad to miss the event, but my colleague, Abi Bunker, who heads up the RSPB’s Agriculture Policy team, was there and was bowled over by the strength of positive feeling in the room, "'What a great day. I feel inspired and enthused by these farmers who have travelled to Westminster today. I am delighted that our three organisations have been able to support and stand by them as they took their unified and strong message to MPs and Ministers. And that message was clear: put as much money as Europe allows into good quality agri-environment schemes."
Abi tells me that Jack Edge, who farms with his wife Georgina at Wall Farm in Kynnersley, Shropshire, was the first to make this point to the newly appointed farm Minister, George Eustice (pictured together below), who took questions during the event and left under no doubt that there is a passionate constituency of farmers who are depending on government to make the right decisions around funding for agri-environment.
When Defra’s consultation goes live – likely to be later this week – I know many of these passionate farmers will take the opportunity to press home once again how important agri-environment schemes are and why Defra Ministers should transfer the maximum 15% of funds from direct farm support to agri-environment schemes.
You can do the same. As soon as the consultation’s live, you’ll be able to take part in our e-action at www.rspb.org.uk/votefornature so you can make your voice heard alongside wildlife-friendly farmers. But in the meantime, you can take part in our poll to demonstrate your support for wildlife friendly farming. To have any chance of recovering our declining farmland wildlife, this is a fight we have to win.
redkite would politely think you are actually wrong,farmers I would say get rewarded for environmentally farming only if they sign up to agreements and it gets worse in the sense that many average sized farms because the paperwork is immense and difficult the hiring of experts to do it just about cancels out the reward.Of course not in the case of large estates etc.
I would suggest that many industries have had financial help in the past.
Bob,you are in a way correct about the NFU but I am convinced that it is only part of the story as there are rspb people constantly criticising saying or more likely insinuating without actually saying farmers.This just has to be part of the reason at least that rspb and NFU do not get on.It is really a ridiculous situation.
On the money side to do what some conservationists think is their right concerning wildlife then I mean that this very very small amount given to farmers through schemes from our taxes is so small that if the majority of people as conservationists believe want lots more wildlife then it has to be paid for somehow.After all every family on average throw £12 of food away a week so let farmers have a fair amount to give us more wildlife.
The worst aspect is that majority of farmers by a very large percentage will not do things while some rspb employees behave in the present manner and of course they deny antagonism towards farmers by saying all manner of things including photos like the above and by rewarding one a year with a award.
No mistake about it wildlife is the loser.
I should just like to comment on the point about supporting wildlife friendly farming.
Agriculture is a major industry. All other major industries, if they wish to operate a major facility must obtain an authorisation to operate from the Environment Agency. That authorisation means that they must abate their releases to the environment (air, water, and waste), in other words they must not damage our environment. This costs any operator of major plant money, both in respect of capital cost and running costs.
It is therefore not unreasonable that the farming industry should be required to conduct its operations with consideration for the environment which includes our wildlife. The difference between this and a large industrial operator is that the farming industry is actually paid by the Government for environmental farming whereas the industrial operator receives no such payment. Not a bad deal for farmers I would suggest.
Sooty, I think you have totally misinterpreted this. This was 25 farmers making a point and they were supported by the Wildlife Trusts, The National trust and the RSPB. Are you saying only 25 farmers support the Trusts and National trust as well. I would have liked to see them supported by the NGOs and also the NFU but that obviously didn't happen.
You also say if the public want farmers to produce wildlife they should pay for it and that is exactly what this event was, a plea to the public through the Government to put public money into producing wildlife
Well done to the RSPB (and the others) for organising this. In these situations it is important to ensure that the wildlife friendly farming message is registered early. This initiative to register it just before the official consultation commences is excellent. It will send the message to George Eustice loudly and strongly.
Martin,oh dear what a pity out of all the farmers in the country only 25 feel happy with the rspb.Think it is the constant insinuations from various rspb people about farmers actions.Sadly I see it all the time from various rspb employees and it is no wonder that sadly I now understand their problem with the rspb.This gives me no joy as how I wish the rspb embraced farmers in better relations.It will not happen with their attitude.It would even be better if they fronted up and admitted they dislike farmers,the truth would be better than being so sly.Why do all those brains at rspb find it so difficult to understand all industries have changed over the course of the last century and farming is no different in that respect.
Really if as rspb suggest the population want wildlife then they should be prepared to pay for it just as they at present pay for food.That is obviously a option as for sure if farmers were rewarded for wildlife as opposed to food then wildlife would benefit,these miniscule amounts that average sized farms get for wildlife at the moment are not likely to change them from putting most energy into producing food.