Farmers in Cambridgeshire and wildlife charity the RSPB are making a plea to the prime minister, asking him to defend support for nature friendly farming in the EU budget negotiations.
For decades, farmland wildlife has been struggling to survive and numbers have plummeted.
However, using payments for wildlife-friendly farming – known as agri-environment schemes - farmers have seen a positive change for their farm wildlife. Some species, such as skylarks, turtle doves and lapwings now depend on wildlife-friendly farmers for their future survival in the UK.
The RSPB is fearful that cuts to European and domestic budgets, which help to fund these payments, mean the axe could be wielded to close to this wildlife lifeline – potentially shaving or slashing the largest single budget for wildlife conservation in the UK.
Paul Forecast, RSPB Director in the East said: “The EU Budget is under enormous pressure, in fact the odds for it being cut that are probably so short you wouldn’t waste the bus fare to the bookies. But EU leaders have to demonstrate that there are bits of the budget that simply must not be cut.”
This isn’t about needing more money, but about making sure that the existing money is spent in more efficient ways delivering genuine public value for public money.”
Wimblington farmers Andy and Sarah Coulson commented: “We are entering our 8th year of stewardship, and as I write there is a flock of over 500 birds (including greenfinch, goldfinch, reed and corn bunting, starling, yellow hammer and linnet) feeding on wild bird seed which we have grown with the support of current funding. We have never seen so many birds in one place on this Fenland farm - all this is the result of Environmental Stewardship!
“We fully understand, in these difficult times, that cuts have to be made, but it absolute madness to shift funding away from areas such as Rural Development which is giving so much public value for money!”
Threats facing this funding has resulted in the RSPB writing to David Cameron urging him to defend this lifeline when he meets with other European Heads of State meeting in Brussels, on 22 November.
The RSPB is making a stand together with wildlife friendly farmers from around the region. You can show your support at: www.rspb.org.uk/steppingup