The truth about wildlife


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The truth about wildlife

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Did anyone else see ‘The truth about wildlife’ on BBC2 last night? It is on BBC iplayer for the rest of this week. Chris Packham was talking about the loss of wildlife on farmland, and spoke to a wide range of interest groups and farmers. Some would call this farmer bashing, but his call was clearly for the importance of paying farmers to protect wildlife. This is the tough dilemma that RSPB has faced on this issue to date. Raising awareness of declines in farmland birds and other wildlife is vital if we are to secure the funding needed to put this right, but all too often this is seen as putting the blame on the farmer’s door. I would welcome the views of anyone who saw the programme about how this came across.

  • Thankyou for the comment Sooty -  pillar 1 funding is less likely to enable farmers to be more competitive and do more for wildlife. I'm pretty sure 90% of the population do care where their taxes go? Many more farmers agree that pillar 2 offer a more suistanable funding route for the future challenges of agriculture. Direct payments do not do that and will continue to constrain farmers who wish to play more on the world market and meet current and future challenges to the sector and the environment on which the whole sector ultimately depends upon.

  • Should of course made it plain above comment addressed to Simon,hope no confusion.

  • The strange thing is that really it is out of our hands as E U farm voice is so strong that is where the power lies,follow your point but see no sense in antagonising majority of farmers by Charles Clover and pals saying cut Pillar 1,lets not forget farmers went into that job to primarily produce food and well over 90% of population could not care less about wildlife(especially if it had to be wildlife or food for human consumtion)I do not want cuts to wildlife but however the RSPB see it I can tell you we can do with better relations with average farmer,anyone can pick a few quotes but there are hundreds of thousands of farmers and would be nice to get more on board for wildlife.It was reported in paper that average income of farmers is a unbelievable low of £15,000 and would suggest that to that average farmer Pillar 1 is a valuable source of income and any cut to that is going to make him or her less likely to do things to help wildlife.

  • Hi Sooty, just one thing to add - many farmers believe that a reduction over time of direct payments in favour of environmental payments will help them play more on the world markets and meet the needs of the environment both now and in the future. Environmental/ wildlife production are not supported by the markets so it is fair to justify the payment from the public purse (and people generally want that). Surely that would be a better use of public funds wouldn't it?

    Read what other farmers, land owners and agronomists think about the subject here:

  • Thank you for a very good reply,I am retired but what annoyed me was a couple of conservationists printing Charles Clover rant about pillar one needing cuts,well by printing you agree with it unless you actually say you do not.I am all for increase in pillar 2 but we should not get into conflict with pillar 1 as it is none of our business unless we say lots of other things waste taxes as well.

    Pillar 1 after all I believe partly replaced hill farm payments which are in themselves for conservation.

    Hopefully we are on the verge of farmers becoming more wildlife friendly and my point is by saying cuts should be made to pillar 1 we will jeopordise the speed that they come on board.

  • Syd, Sooty, thanks to you both for taking the time to respond – it is exactly what we want our new blog to be, a chance to listen to even more farmers than we can normally meet day to day, and the views of our supporters.

    Sooty, we are very much in line with Chris Packham’s views, though I know our aims are often misreported which can lead to a very different impression.  You can always find what we are really saying in our news releases, which are published on our farming page.

    Delivering wildlife can cost money. We fervently believe that farmers should be compensated where this is the case, and we put a huge amount of effort into fighting for that funding.  We believe that funding through Pillar 2 is essential to ensure wildlife friendly farmers are properly rewarded.  Hence we do keep carping on about it, shamelessly!  

    We are actively promoting the wild bird seed mix, and developed the Farmland Bird Package in time for the launch of the Campaign for the Farmed Environment.  This asks for 2ha of wild bird seed mix (or 5ha of ELS stubble), 1 ha of nectar flower mix (or other flower-rich habitat) and 20 skylark plots per 100 ha of arable farmland. It is the best estimate we have of the scale of habitat required to restore wildlife populations, and has recently been supported by the findings of the Farm4Bio research project, which also estimates that roughly 4% of arable farmland managed specifically to provide seeds, flowers and fallows will restore wildlife. This is now ingrained in the CFE, and the Environmental Stewardship advice across England.

    We offer a great deal of advice on wildlife-friendly farming free to all farmers – large scale or small, you are all essential to the future health of our wildlife.  We have lots of information on our website, offer free surveys and have a team of advisors who can provide expert guidance on wildlife friendly farming. Just get in touch with your nearest advisor and they would be happy to help.

  • Well watched these programs weeks ago on regional t v or i player and certainly overall he was different in his assessment on farmers to RSPB he certainly went out of his way to say that if we wanted wildlife we had to pay so such as tenant was not out of pocket.On one program it was obvious that a large farm had expert guidance how to help wildlife and claim for it both of which are almost exclusively unavailable to the average farmer.The striking thing to me has always been such as on this farm and others where say a hectare of land put into wild bird food mixture the number of small birds that overwinter on it is amazing.Can never understand that seeing as at least one RSPB site does this and so RSPB knows how successful it is they do not promote it and seem much happier carping on about getting money from pillar 1 onto pillar 2 payments ,crazy to say the least.

  • Hi Richard, I'm not a farmer, but I didn't see it as farmer bashing either. In fact, Chris made a point of talking to a small tenant farmer who simply couldn't afford to take land out of production, even though he would have liked to do so. I thought he gave a very balanced view of the issues and highlighted the dilemmas that both farmers and conservationists face. Hopefully it will go some way to making people realise that they're going to have to pay, either via taxes, or via increased food prices, if we are to reverse these declines. Personally, I'd be happy to pay a bit more for my food if it means a few more corn buntings and lapwings!