June, 2013

Farming

Farming
Welcome to this group for all farmers and anyone with an interest in farming. Read our blog to see how we're working with farmers and to find out where you can meet us at events.

Farming

Find out more about how we're working with farmers and others to provide space for farmland nature in the landscape. Join in the discussion on farming issues and share tips for wildlife-friendly farming.
  • A new Holland, but not the tractor variety!

    Posted on behalf of Andrew Holland, Brecks Farm Conservation Adviser

    Andrew is one of the newest members of our farm advice team, based in the Brecks in East Anglia. Here he tells us what inspired him to make the change from farming to working with the RSPB, and how he'll be helping wildlife-friendly farmers in his new patch.   

    "I worked for over twenty-eight years growing various vegetables and cereals on the family run farm in Lancashire. Once I saw the benefits of the ELS and HLS agri-environment schemes for wildlife, I thought it was time to inspire other farmers with my enthusiasm for these great schemes. I was excited to start my new role as the Brecks Farm Conservation Adviser, in January of this year, which is funded through the EU LIFE+ Stone Curlew Project.

    I am determined to help farmers set up new agri-environment agreements, which will benefit the wildlife, the soils and protect the watercourses on their farms.  My main role is the creation of stone curlew nesting plots through the schemes within the Brecks and the Suffolk coast, which will potentially increase the numbers of this iconic bird.

    Stone curlew adult near nest and eggs, Breckland, Norfolk. Chris Gomersall (rspb-images.com)

    The work will also include help with applications, location of the nesting plots and care and maintenance visits to help the farmers implement their agreements on the ground and to make sure that existing agreements are maximising their full potential. I am also using my knowledge of farm equipment, with their different ground disturbing techniques, to enhance cultivated margins for arable flora."

    If you're in the Brecks and would like to talk to Andrew about how he can help you, you can reach him on 01842 753732 or email andrew.holland@rspb.org.uk

     

  • What can G8 do for wildlife?

    The June 2013 G8 summit is taking place now against the stunning back drop of Lough Erne in Fermanagh . Next door to where the heads of state are ensconced is Fernay and White Island South, a long standing RSPB reserve managed for breeding waders. You should be able to spot these islands on most of the coverage of the summit. The RSPB in Lough Erne have a network of 39 islands which are bursting with wildlife with wading birds such as lapwing,  sandwich terns, pine martens, red squirrels and otters all making their home here. Our work here and with land managers in the surrounding areas have made a haven for nature against a backdrop of wider declines as highlighted in the ‘State of Nature’ report.

    According to the Government, the key focus for the UK’s G8 Presidency is on “...advancing trade...and promoting greater transparency, in order to drive lasting global prosperity.” The Government has also given development a significant place on the agenda and hosted a Hunger Summit in advance of the main G8 Summit itself. This has been welcomed by the Enough Food IF Campaign which is calling for the G8 to make strides towards a world free from hunger by introducing essential reforms.

    But what does global prosperity mean? The term prosperity is often just used to mean a measure of economic progress but it can also convey health, happiness and a spiritual dimension. For me a world devoid of wildlife could not be prosperous. The production and trade of food has a profound effect on our natural environment. In some cases, trade can help alleviate pressure on the natural environment. In other cases, it is threatening the future of important species and habitats, and depleting natural resources. Yet the complexity of the global food system makes it incredibly difficult to figure out the environmental impact of our everyday purchases.

    Unravelling this complexity in order to design policies which will deliver a more sustainable and secure food system is no easy task. However, it is clear that future trade reforms cannot afford to ignore the issue of sustainability (Foresight, 2010). Long-term we need robust environmental regulations/safeguards which protect natural habitats and wild species built into trade agreements. –According to a recent UNEP reportsustainable trade has the potential to maintain or increase agricultural output in the medium- and long-term while reducing resource use, preserving the natural environment and promoting food security. Sustainable trade – such as trade in certified products or in environmental goods and services – is on the rise in absolute terms, but remains a tiny fraction of total world trade’. A key to delivery will be transparency and traceability within the supply chain so we know what we are getting and how and where it has been produced.

    But the need for change goes beyond just the way we trade food. The weight of evidence for the need to change our global food system is irrefutable and action is needed now to shape a more sustainable approach for the future. Many of these actions could be kicked off immediately.

    The recent DFID select committee report on Global Food Security makes a number of helpful recommendations aimed at tackling world hunger. It highlighted that the amount of food available for human consumption could be greatly increased by revising biofuel targets to exclude agriculturally produced biofuels. It also joined the chorus of voices on the need to tackle food waste.

    Perhaps most importantly the committee recognised the need for the UK to reduce meat consumption. Once a provocative idea, the fact that a government committee is calling for a reduction in meat consumption to help tackle future food security is a real step forward (happily this particular policy initiative would also help tackle health concerns!).  

    As we begin to reengineer our food system we can all make an impact as individuals by choosing the most sustainable options available. Making this choice is not always easy though and more work is needed to improve such schemes and make them easier to understand.  Earlier this year, the report of the Ecosystems Market Task Force included, as one of its priority recommendations, a call for business “to explore and exploit untapped opportunities for rigorous and innovative nature-based certification and labelling that incorporate environmental protection”. The report made the point that, in order to be credible, such schemes must include rigorous standards and safeguards.

    Creating demand for more sustainable products will play an important role alongside government regulation and other forms of public support in helping nature to thrive in a redesigned global food system.

    Let us hope leaders of the G8 take inspiration from their surroundings at Lough Earne. Perhaps if they glance beyond the manicured lawns and catch a glimpse of the towering display fights of the redshank they will remind them of their responsibility for the natural world. Perhaps the gorgeous bubbling song of the curlew drifting in through the window will inspire them to think differently, factoring the natural world into their calculations to achieve a more prosperous future for people and wildlife.

  • Introducing our new farm advice package

    "Really good website"

    "Nice stand, informative and friendly staff."

    "Excellent idea."

    Just some of the comments we had on our stand at the Cereals event. We're particularly pleased because these comments came from farmers looking at our brand new approach to farm advice. This falls into two complementary halves - direct advice for farmers in key target areas across the UK, and a suite of new resources for all farmers.

    We've talked to farmers to find out how we can best support their conservation efforts, and this has helped us develop a new-look website at www.farmwildlife.info and a concise, easy-to-follow booklet which sets out the eight principles of conservation management on an arable farm.

    This is particularly exciting because it brings together the expertise of farming and environmental organisations, to give farmers a trust-worthy, consistent and accessible source of information. The idea came from feedback from farmers who have found it difficult to decide which advice to follow in the past. Now there is a one-stop shop for all the environmental advice - the first phase of this work covers arable farming in England, but additional information will be added for all farming systems across the UK.

    The other half of our advice programme delivers in-field advice for farmers, in targeted areas across the UK. We'll be offering farmers within these areas a free survey to monitor bird populations on their farm. These surveys are repeated after three years, something which we've often been asked to do. You can find out more about where those areas are here.