Wildlife safe with Tynedale farmers
Published at 07:44, Wednesday, 20 February 2013
TYNEDALE’S responsible farmers will not neglect their environmental responsibilities despite budget cuts to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
That’s the view of former NFU regional livestock board chairman Malcolm Corbett, who believes the district’s farmers always look after their surroundings.
European funding for conserving agricultural landscapes will be cut by about 10 per cent over the next seven years, which could lead to less money being spent on maintaining hedgerows, wildflower meadows, wetlands and other important natural habitats.
Conservationists say the cuts spell bad news for wildlife-friendly farming, and have warned it could lead to a decline in farmland birds and other species.
But Mr Corbett, a hill farmer at Dyke Head, Rochester, said: “It is good to have environmental criteria because it means there is some control, but I think most farmers are responsible and look after the countryside.
“At the end of the day, if you don’t look after your farm it will not look after you, so you hand it on to the next generation in good order.”
Like many farmers, Mr Corbett currently receives a basic payment towards environmental care, but he believes there are inequalities in the way funding is distributed.
He added: “The jam is spread unevenly and my farm, for example, does not qualify for the bigger environmental payments because that is the way it has been assessed.”
Mr Corbett accepts that food production is always a priority, and feels this is the area which would benefit most from investment.
He added: “I think we are going through a period where the pendulum is swinging towards food production.
“We are always looking to see the money go into food production so people can buy affordable food.
“I say affordable and not cheap, because we’ve all seen the news about horse meat in beef burgers. The food produced on our farms is quality and affordable.”
The RSPB’s conservation director Martin Harper is against the budget cuts and is calling on Defra and the European Commission to keep their vow to protect wildlife and the environment.
He said: “Wildlife across Europe will pay a heavy price for this terribly regressive deal, and we are bound to see further declines in some species whose numbers have crashed.
“Since the 1980s, Europe has lost 300 million farmland birds. How many more will we lose over the next seven years?”
Following last week’s budget summit between EU leaders in Brussels, a spokesman for the European Commission said farmers needed to do more to earn their subsidies.
He said: “Many people don’t understand why farmers are getting aid when other parts of society don’t.
“In an ideal world we wouldn’t be paying farmers any aid unless they were earning it by providing public good, like helping birds and bees that people value.”
He also said the cuts could raise the prospect of farmers going unpunished for breaking existing EU rules on the environment.
Published by http://www.hexhamcourant.co.uk