Monday, 21 November 2011

Biodiversity Blues or "Oh, what to do with the NFU?"

I bumped into a local villager at the weekend who was as saddened as I was at the loss of the local set-aside. He had enjoyed walking his dog through the set-aside for years wanted to write to the local landowner to express his concerns.
Cuddesdon from the air. Spot the biodiversity.
PS: It's not your eyes. There isn't any.

Our conversation made me realise that I am not alone in experiencing such frustration at the way the local land is managed. After all, as Mark Avery wrote this month: "three-quarters of our £2 billion 'investment' in farming, is income support for farmers". We, the tax payers, support farming in way that no other industry in the UK is supported. And what do we get back? Food, with a side order of millions of missing birds. It does not have to be this way:

"The RSPB have shown that you can increase biodiversity on farmland and maintain yields. Why isn’t the NFU President telling this message? Why doesn’t he say ‘If we farmers got our act together then we could increase farmland biodiversity – plants, insects and birds – shut up the moaning nature-lovers and then get on with increasing yields.’? Because that is almost certainly possible. But it seems that the NFU doesn’t want to give a message of hope. It seems intent on making an unnecessary conflict between production and nature. It doesn’t have to be like this but today the NFU is a fundamentally anti-environment organisation."
Mark Avery November 2011

And when you read what Peter Kendall, President of the NFU wrote this month, it is hard to disagree: "The Government should switch its focus from bio-diversity and concentrate on farm productivity if it wants to make the most of British agriculture’s potential as an engine for growth."

Clearly the farmers are the only ones who can get us out of the recession and all the more quickly if they can drop the lightest of the environmental strings that are attached to their subsidies. I want to see more set-aside and biodiversity in my local environment. And I do not want to pay farmers for anything less.

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