August 30 2015 Latest news:

East Anglian farmers and conservationists have urged the prime minister to use a forthcoming visit to Brussels to protect a vital lifeline for the region’s wildlife.

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EU payments for wildlife-friendly farming have been credited with helping to reverse the population crashes of many vulnerable and farming-dependent species.

But just as these agri-environment schemes are celebrating their 25th anniversary, the people behind them fear cuts to European and domestic budgets could mean slashing the largest single budget for wildlife conservation in the UK.

Groups including the RSPB and the Wildlife Trusts have written to David Cameron asking him to defend these schemes when he attends a European heads of state meeting in Brussels later this month.

Simon Tonkin, farmland conservation officer for the RSPB in the East of England, said: “We know that budgets are tight, but we believe that rewarding farmers for helping to keep wildlife on their land is excellent value for money, especially when less than £7 out of every £100 paid to farmers currently goes towards wildlife conservation.

“This isn’t about needing more money, but about making sure that the existing money is spent in the right way, to deliver real public benefits for the continued public investment.

“The CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) has long been criticised for inefficiency and waste. It would be scandalous if cuts were targeted at the one part of this policy that is actually delivering serious benefits to wildlife.

“Any reduction in this money will remove the lifeline on which many of our most-loved species depend and will risk decades of effort being needed to bring many farmland species back from the brink.”

Farmers, landowners and agronomists from across East Anglia have also expressed their concerns.

Chris Skinner is a conservation farmer who manages a square mile of countryside at High Ash Farm, two miles south of Norwich at Caistor St Edmund.

In 2006, he entered a large-scale Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) scheme, monitored by Natural England, which provides funding for him to farm the vast majority of the land for biodiversity benefits, as long as he meets strict criteria for species growth.

He said: “The public wants us to farm in an environmentally and wildlife-friendly way, but that does cost money.

“Without these funds I cannot afford to farm my land to the benefit of wildlife and have to go back to more conventional ways of farming which would be disastrous for the farm wildlife and the taxpayers who come to enjoy it.”


  • Completely agree. It's about time that the subsidies paid to farmers just because they are farmers stop and any public money they receive is used to deliver public goods such as wildlife, clean rivers or high quality landscapes. Natural England need to pull their socks up as well and make sure that the applications they do fund actually deliver for wildlife.

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    Betty Swallocks

    Saturday, November 10, 2012

  • Unbelievable. You get a farmer come on here explaining about all that he does for conservation and you still get people having a pop at farmers without the slightest shred of insight into farming or how the countryside works. Well done Mr Skinner, I appreciate the efforts that you and your fellow custodians do for our wildlife even if others don’t!

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    Monday, November 12, 2012

  • Betty and co. Have a look at the potato market, how the weather has affected prices-last year some farmers could not sell their spuds at any price and this year some are selling at £300 a tonne. Now apply this to all the food you eat, the cereals, meat, green stuffs, sugar and consider what happens to your food supply when it is really affected by market forces and the weather, when farmers stop growing a certain crop because they have not been able to make money and that food stuff goes into shortage on a longer term not annual basis. Pig production has been subject to such swings in the past. Or when farmers go out of business altogether because the area payments were all that was keeping them afloat in times of soaring fertilizer and fuel prices but cereal prices until very recently were not much more than they were decades ago? Then the food supply ends up the hands of agribusinesses and their policies, and still subject to the vagaries of the weather.Or we have an early 20th century situation where English farmland was neglected because no one could make money and the country relied on imports, with disastrous consequences for food security. CAP is as much about food security as about subsidising farmers in France and Germany. It may not be the best policy but the Romans understood the sense of keeping their urban populations fed and watered as consistently and cheaply as possible and so does the EU. The British people currently pay the smallest percentage of their incomes for food than ever I believe and enjoy food in their shops whenever they want it. Farmer bashing is an easy sport when you have no knowledge of the cost of bank loans, the machinery leasing and the final wages farmers take. As is bashing their conservation efforts, but I would wager that farmers and landowners do more for the environment out of their own pockets than almost any one else in the UK.

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    Daisy Roots

    Sunday, November 11, 2012

  • Soudns to me like the farmers could start to do their bit too, "especially when less than £7 out of every £100 paid to farmers currently goes towards wildlife conservation. This isn’t about needing more money, but about making sure that the existing money is spent in the right way" Lets start managing the £93 better and target those efforts on cutting out the £7 entirely.

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    john smith

    Saturday, November 10, 2012

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