Thursday, 29 July 2010

Environmental White Paper launched – farmland issues discussed in the House of Lords - July 28th

As stated by Baroness Byford (Conservative)

"How we live and how we use our resources clearly has an effect on biodiversity. Only two days ago, on 26 July, the Secretary of State, Caroline Spelman, launched the environmental White Paper, An Invitation to Shape the Nature of England. It is an exciting paper and I hope that people participate in the consultation.

I now switch to the subject of farming organisations. Farmers land-manage more than 74 per cent of the land. The NFU, the CLA and the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust work hard at improving conservation awareness on all farms. The Campaign for the Farmed Environment was launched nine months ago and applies to arable land. More recently, there was a launch about horticultural land. It deals with how intensively farmed land can be sympathetically used to help wildlife.

I turn to two other organisations. One is FWAG, of which the noble Baroness and my noble friend will be well aware. The second is LEAF, of which I am president. Here we are, 19 years on, with an organisation that was started to link the environment and farming together in ways that have developed in recent years. Its "Open Farm Sunday" is well known. More than 180,000 people visited farms on that day. It also runs the green box scheme and recently started the LEAF virtual farm walk, which is open to anyone to access from its site and is a very good way to encourage people to learn more about what happens on a farm. It also organises technical days and speak-outs.

The noble Baroness and my noble friend mentioned taking the message to people so they have a better understanding. I mention FACE, Farming and Countryside Education, which is an organisation that takes the message into schools. Many other groups help. The NFU does, as does the Women's Food and Farming Union, but we need to do more to get the message out further and wider than is possible at the moment."

As stated by Baroness Young of Oldscone (Other)

"Farmland bird declines continue. The most recent report by the BTO, the RSPB and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee demonstrated that farmland bird decline has not been halted. I believe that we are struggling in areas where there is insufficient targeting of resources, no clear injection of resources and where the actions that need to be taken are by a very large number of people.

We need also to look at the other mechanisms in the wider countryside for agriculture beyond SSSIs. I recognise the commitment made by the National Farmers' Union and others to the Campaign for the Farmed Environment, but it is a voluntary scheme and is not yet showing results in the figures. We need now to look seriously at what can be delivered by further requirements for farmers to adopt cross-compliance. There should be simple but targeted actions in return for the single farm payment, a resource for which you, I and every other taxpayer in the country pays £1 5 billion, but which at the moment is not working for its living in terms of delivering biodiversity in our countryside."