At this time of year, as the nation’s attention shifts to summer holidays and farmers across the country are busy with harvest, it’s hard to keep focused on forthcoming pieces of legislation and parliamentary procedure – but we must.
The Secretary of State Michael Gove was right when earlier this year he wrote, ‘Leaving the European Union (EU) provides a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reform agriculture’. It does and it means we have a chance to secure a sustainable future for agriculture and the environment, as well as a range of public goods for society.
“In order to do so, this Agriculture Bill (which is expected this autumn) should focus on spending public money to reward farmers for the public benefits they provide to society; increase the funding available and reflect the government’s ambition to restore nature within a generation; and include a broad purpose for future policies, clear objectives and mechanisms to secure long-term funding.
Ask to meet your MP
This opportunity is one that should not be missed. As farmers are uniquely placed to drive forward the restoration of our natural environment, we need you to speak up and use your voice, reaching out to MPs to tell them why this Agriculture Bill needs to deliver a well-resourced, well-managed and well-enforced agricultural policy that promotes nature-friendly farming across our beautiful, diverse and productive countryside.
James Cartlidge MP meeting on site with farmer Nick Oliver. L-R James Cartlidge MP, Robert Lingard (RSPB senior parliamentary officer), Nick Oliver (farmer), Sam Lee (RSPB). Image: RSPB
It can be a bit daunting contacting your local MP, especially if you’ve not done it before, or even engaged ‘politically’ that much, or at all. However, it’s pretty simple really. MPs, on the whole, are keen to hear from their constituents, especially on issues that they feel passionate about. Farming also holds a special place in our political discourse and farmers are recognised for the vital role they play in our economy, culture and lives.
You can find your MP here so why not contact them and invite them to visit your farm? This is a very effective way of lobbying, if you have the time, and we’ve got plenty of resources available so you can get up to speed with what we’re asking for as an organisation, and the ‘key messages’ we’d like you to cover – you can read our briefing here.
That said, it’s so much more effective if you say this in your own words and express how important this is to you – as a farmer you get it, so please talk about your own experiences, passion and how this fits with your own practices.
You really could help make the difference with this and we’d love to hear how you get on. Please let us know if you meet your MP or have any questions regarding this by contacting Harry Greenfield: Harry.Greenfield@rspb.org.uk
We have advisors who speak to hundreds of land managers every year, supporting them in managing their land sympathetically. But did you know that there is also a wide range of land management handbooks available from the RSPB?
These comprehensive guides have proved incredibly popular over the years, benefitting a wide range of species. If you're already managing for wildlife alongside your agricultural interests or you're keen to start, these handbooks make a valuable reference point, covering the principles and techniques that will help you get the most from your conservation efforts.
While stocks last, we are offering these comprehensive guides at the very special price of £5.00 each (plus p&p)!!
Farm-related titles include:
A selection of the handbooks available. Image: Jenny Atkins
Recent feedback from those who have already purchased a handbook includes:
- I contacted the RSPB about my son's college course. He’s studying agriculture and had to produce a land management assignment. We purchased a handbook and my son was very happy with so much useful information. We are thankful to the RSPB for their swift and very helpful response. It was all very supportive. Christine (South West).
- I have some of these books and expect them to provide a wealth of useful information and help my understanding of many issues. With the many changes that agriculture is facing, they are a great resource to understand how to use our land better. They really are value for money and I advocate that anyone interested in conservation should consider any that are relevant and buy one or two accordingly. Martin (Midlands).
- As an agricultural advisor, I have found having a few of these books worthwhile. You never stop learning and if you have an interest in land management, so much the better. Yvonne (Scotland).
To get your hands on the copies relevant to you, phone 01767 693308 or e-mail email@example.com
We hope they will encourage conservation management anew and guide existing work.
Guest blog by Gethin Davies (RSPB Senior agricultural adviser)
A group of Welsh dairy farmers have recently started a project working with conservation organisations to find out how they can do more for wildlife on their farms.
The Calon wen organic dairy farmers cooperative have developed the ‘Pasture for Pollinators’ project with the Bumblebee Conservation Trust and the RSPB to identify practical ways to help bees and other pollinators on their farms. The three-year project is being supported by the European Innovation Partnership, a programme which puts farmers at the centre of research and development, and managed by Menter a Busnes under the Rural Development Plan for Wales.
Pollination is one of the most critical services that nature provides, underpinning food production and biodiversity. Around a third of the global food crop and three-quarters of British wild plants are dependent on pollination. Much less attention has been given to how grass-based livestock farming, such as dairying, can benefit pollinator populations compared to horticultural and arable systems. It is hoped that the outputs of this project will be of interest to many farmers.
Image: Sinead Lynch, Bumblebee Conservation Trust
The project is aiming to show that some simple changes to grassland management can go hand in hand with boosting pollen and nectar resources for bumblebees and other pollinators. The main options being looked at include:
With farmers at the heart of developing the solutions, it’s hoped there is a greater prospect of developing solutions that go on to be widely taken up for the long-term.
Image: Cotswold Seeds
The farmers in the Calon wen partnership are all organic with legumes such as red and white clover at the centre of their business. This offers a great foundation for benefiting nature, but the farmers know that to go the extra mile for wildlife, they need to ensure they provide the whole lifecycle needs of bees and pollinators. In doing this they will also benefit wildlife further along the food chain such as farmland birds. Making the most of non-farmed areas such field boundaries is important, but it's critical to also find ways for the farmed area to contribute solutions. This will add to previous research that has shown the benefits that wholecrop cereals and leniently grazed fields can have for wildlife, helping dairy farmers provide the key elements wildlife need to thrive on farmland.
The dairy industry sometimes receives criticism for its negative environmental impacts. It’s an industry often under intense commercial pressure to make their farming as productive and efficient as possible. But like all sectors, there is great variability in the systems being employed by farmers on the ground. Calon wen are playing a leading role in developing solutions to environmental issues, and through their branded dairy products offer people the opportunity to buy into a progressive vision for UK dairying.
Image: Calon wen
We’ll keep you posted on further developments from the project in future blogs.