EU Budget - Disaster averted...but still fails the environment


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EU Budget - Disaster averted...but still fails the environment

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Unlike normal people, who spend their Wednesday evenings enjoying a free ticket to the cinema, the Agriculture Policy nerds at the RSPB have spent the last 12 hours or so digesting and interpreting the EU budget proposals for the period 2014-2020, which were announced last night. As many of you will know there’s a lot at stake for the environment across Europe.

So what was the result? We are viewing the figures with a mixture of relief but also extreme disappointment. Relief because the secret plans of some within the European Commission to make severe cuts to the budget for wildlife friendly farming, forestry management and rural development were pushed off the table late in the negotiations. This is in no small part due to the intense lobbying by us and our supporters, including many farmers who spoke up to protect this essential funding. A sincere thank-you to everyone who helped.

So why the disappointment? According to the Commission’s figures and the narrative around it, funding for Rural Development has been saved from the axe. Isn’t that what we were after? No – is the short answer. The funding is already insufficient to address the challenges facing the natural environment in the wider countryside. And far from increasing the pot of money available for wildlife friendly farming and rural development, the budget has in fact been cut by at least 7% in real terms, compared to the current CAP. If this figure remains unchanged through upcoming European negotiations it will mean less money for farmers who want to improve the environmental benefits their land provides, less money to protect threatened wildlife, less money to manage protected areas, and less money to tackle climate change from agriculture.

All these challenges are ones that Europe itself has promised to tackle by 2020. With this short-sighted budget, it is very difficult to see how they or the UK Government are going to deliver.

So what next? Do we give up and go to the cinema? Hell no – we’re in this for the long haul. As you will see in our press release, the next few months will be vital and the RSPB, its BirdLife partners and other NGO colleagues will continue to work hard to mobilize not just MEPs and Member State Governments, but also continue the work with supporters, members, farmers and other voices for nature in getting the best result possible for biodiversity and the environment, and for the farmers and land managers who can make it happen.

Abigail Bunker, Acting Head of Agriculture Policy


  • Hi Sooty and thanks for your blog post. We are always looking for new bird surveyors to volunteer for the project, so thank you; that would be fantastic. It would be great if we could discuss it further.  If you would like to call or e-mail to discuss your suitability further that would be the best thing.  Please contact me, Felicity Clarke (Volunteer & Farmer Alliance project officer) on 01392 453774 or Thank you and we look forward to working with you.

  • Yes well done anyway,do not know if you are the person to ask but wonder if I should volunteer for helping with volunteer and farm alliance as I know farming obviously and have wildlife and birds as hobby.It probably depends on whether I am skilled enough and if you nare short of volunteers in north dorset,south Wilts.Would you if possible reply to my email.Thank you.

  • Hi Sooty, thank you so much for taking the time to comment, and my apologies for the delay in responding.  I know Richard Winspear has subsequently responded to both your queries from his post on The Trusth About Wildlife.  For the benefit of other readers that might not have spotted Richard's post - we are fighting for a fair deal for wildlife friendly farmers (and will continue to do so!!), and we are doing our utmost to spread the word on wild bird seed mixtures.  I am so happy that you have seen just how great the results can be, and we welcome you spreading the word too!

  • Hi Heather would you please answer something that I find that I cannot understand,the RSPB has at Arne RSPB reserve grown with amazing success a plot of perhaps 2 acres wild bird seed mixture so why does not the RSPB push this as if even only one patch say in a parish it would make a big difference and the critisism of them I have seen is that only large birds use them and they wear out before the second half of winter.Well both untrue as visiting Arne in February only small birds there and hundreds still there feeding.Realise it may be difficult to persuade farmers to grow this but surely worth a try.Thanks in anticipation.

  • Well Heather G suggest you stay away from Mark Avery's agreement with Charles Clover that cuts should be made to Pillar 1,a recipe to set farmers against conservationists especially as even Pillar 1 i understand limits number of stock on certain areas to prevent overgrazing.Conservationists need to learn to fight their corner without knocking other payments.